What Your Teeth Can Tell You About The Quality Of Your Sleep

Teeth are for more than just chewing and smiling. As it turns out, they can also reveal a number of different potential health ailments, from minor to major in nature. In fact, many teeth-related clues have a significant bearing on a seemingly unrelated aspect of life — the ability to get a good night's sleep. That's because there are a lot of potential disturbances going on in the jaw and mouth region when a person is nighty-night, and when such events occur it can make sleep far less satisfying. Anecdotal evidence aside, there are some pretty compelling reasons for a person to get the best possible sleep that aren't just about feeling well-rested. 

Chronic lousy sleep in the immediate is known to affect daily tasks, like driving safely or performing well at work. In the long-term, however, it can actually raise a person's risk of troublesome health ailments like obesity, certain cancers, heart disease, dementia, and so on, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. If you struggle with poor sleep, don't be surprised if the dentist raises a red flag or two at your next cleaning. Their findings just might be connected to the lackluster rest you've been getting.

These signs indicate teeth grinding

Teeth can take a lot of action, but it's supposed to be limited to the foods we eat. Unfortunately, a lot of people grind their teeth (both while awake and at night), and that can cause damage. Teeth grinding, known clinically as bruxism, is often stress-induced. However, it can also be caused by poorly aligned teeth or an unhealthy lifestyle. It is intricately related to poor sleep, as well as a host of other problems, says the Mayo Clinic. The teeth themselves often show signs of worn enamel, or of being flattened, broken, or even knocked loose. If a dentist spies any of these physical characteristics, it's likely that your poor sleep is related to this phenomenon. Additional symptoms that teeth grinding is the culprit of sleep woes are the presence of jaw pain, dull headache, damage to the inside of the mouth (as though you're chewing on the cheeks or scraping the roof), ear pain that has nothing to do with infection, airway restriction, and more. Even more troubling than all of this discomfort, however, is that teeth grinding can cause sleep apnea and vice versa. In fact, this happens in around 25% of cases, according to West County Dental. Since sleep apnea is dangerous and leads to a higher mortality rate if left untreated, it's important to suss out the problem and get it fixed. 

Use these tools to treat teeth grinding

To figure out how to treat the problem and prevent any more damage, a conversation with the dentist is necessary. Depending on the situation, the dentist may tell you to consult your primary care physician for sleep apnea treatment. This will likely involve getting a CPAP machine to help you breathe at night, minimizing or even eliminating the snoring problem. Alternatively, the dentist might prescribe a custom dental guard to act as a barrier between the teeth while you sleep. This will prevent further damage to the area and also cut back on the annoying side effects, such as jaw pain, headaches, neck pain, etc. These can cost some money upfront, but will undoubtedly cut down on future dental bills. Sometimes, dental guards can treat certain types of sleep apnea, so many patients go this route first. Mild muscle relaxers prescribed by a dentist can also help kick everything into gear in the beginning, as they can loosen tension in the jaw a bit faster. Many dentists are even trained to administer Botox to treat teeth-grinding. Ideally, one of these scenarios can relieve the pain, enhance sleep quality, and stop any further tooth damage before it starts.