Good Sleep and Good Dental Health Go Together
Every night, your child brushes and flosses, gives you a kiss and climbs into bed. This is an excellent routine to promote dental health—and not just because of the brushing and flossing. While we sleep, our bodies heal. Our blood sugar levels stabilize, our immune system reboots, and our blood vessels and heart can do their important maintenance work. For children, whose bodies are constantly growing and changing, sleep is critically important.
Considering the connection between general health and dental wellness, it makes sense that adequate sleep is essential to keeping your child’s smile healthy and bright. Given evidence in a Japanese study that suggested a correlation between inadequate sleep and periodontal disease, there may be more to the sleep–dental connection than previously thought.
Not only is poor sleep associated with dental problems, dental problems can cause poor sleep—especially in children, who can’t always express what’s causing them to toss and turn. Two common sleep disorders, sleep-related bruxism and sleep-related gastroesophageal reflux, can wreak havoc on the quality of your child’s sleep.
- Children with sleep-related bruxism grind their teeth at night, which can wear down teeth, alter the child’s bite, and cause pain in the face and jaw.
- Children with sleep-related gastroesophageal reflux regurgitate stomach acid while sleeping, which can chemically erode tooth enamel.
To be sure your child’s sleep isn’t being disturbed by these problems, Dr. Jared can check his or her mouth for signs of both disorders, especially if the child is complaining of a sour taste in the mouth, jaw pain or interrupted sleep. He may also recommend a thorough examination by a pediatrician or specialist to rule out other issues, such as thyroid disorders and ear/nose/throat problems, that can affect sleep.
To help children get a good night’s sleep that boosts dental health, have them wind down an hour or two before bed with a quiet activity, such as reading or relaxing with family; skip caffeine-containing drinks; and make sure they have a comfortable, quiet, cool sleep environment. And, of course, make sure they brush and floss before bed!
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