A child’s dental health is the priority of every parent. It is crucial to have a proactive approach to making sure that their oral health is in its best state.
Aside from a regular dental visit, proper brushing, and a healthy diet, good sleep is also a must-have. It is often overlooked despite its significance in the dental health of children.
Read on and find out the relationship between sleep and dental health. Most of the things that we’ll talk about below apply even to adults.
Exploring the Relationship Between Sleep and Oral Health
From gardening with kids to at-home learning, we spend a lot of time enjoying different activities with the little ones. We love being active and having fun! Nonetheless, you should not just pay attention to what kids can do when they are awake. It is equally important to think about their rest, especially the quality of their sleep.
Evidence From Japan
One study published in The Journal of Pediatrics examined how short sleep at night and late bedtime are correlated to the risk of dental caries in children who are 18 months and above. It was a population-based cohort study involving participants from Kobe City, Japan, so we can say that the scope is quite limited.
In the said study, the babies do not have dental caries when they are 18 months. They were observed until they turned three years old. Parent-reported questionnaires were assessed to determine their sleep patterns and a dental examination was conducted at the end of the
period. The results showed that up to 16% of the participants had dental caries when they turned three. This was highest amongst those who had short sleep duration and late bedtime.
Another study was conducted in Japan to explore the relationship between lack of sleep and oral health in children. It involved 1,699 children from Toyama Prefecture. This time, one more element was included – the long duration of media use. As with the study above, the results are similar – dental caries are evident in children who have a short sleep, which is often because of excessive media use.
Observing Children From Kuwait
In another study involving Kuwaiti children, the relationship between dental caries and late bedtime was also observed. It was a longitudinal multilevel analysis with findings published in the Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. The said study explored the relationship between salivary ghrelin and leptin in the development of dental caries. The study involved data from 5,456 children who were first observed in 2012 and again in 2014.
They were from 138 middle schools in Kuwait. Data were obtained from self-reported sleep interviews, body and weight measurements, chemical analysis of saliva samples, and oral examinations. The results show that for every additional hour of late bedtime after 8:00 pm, dental caries increased by as much as 20%.
A Study Involving Children With Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition wherein the child’s breathing is completely or partially blocked during sleep. This is caused by the narrowing or blockage of the upper airways. It can occur several times during the night. Hence, it can disrupt sleep.
The study involved 31 children with sleep apnea and 36 children who have a very low risk of having sleep apnea. The results showed that oral health worsened amongst those who have obstructive sleep apnea, as shown by the prevalence of dental caries.
Data From Texas School Children
In the United States, researchers from the University of Texas School of Public Health observed children every three to five years. However, it studied not only sleeping habits but also other conditions that can affect oral health, such as diet. There were 17,533 respondents across 280 schools in the state.
The research concluded that lack of sleep is related to the severity of periodontal disease in children, which can eventually result in tooth loss. Additionally, it noted that because children did not have enough sleep, they often have poor oral hygiene practices. This happened because of problems with cognition and motor skills.
Ensuring a Good Sleep
With the empirical evidence mentioned above, it is apparent that parents should prioritize good sleep for tooth decay prevention. Below are some of the best things that you can do.
1. Stick to a Routine
One thing that will help is to establish a routine. This means that you should follow a strict schedule. Set the same nap time, sleeping time, and waking time. This will help children build a habit as they grow up.
2. Relax Before Bedtime
Speaking of creating a routine, look for ways by which children can be relaxed before they go to sleep. This is possible by practicing breathing exercises, reading a book, or listening to a lullaby. Having wind-down time will make them feel more relaxed.
3. Stay Active During the Day
4. Watch Out for Their Screen Time
5. Create a Conducive Environment
Children need 9 to 12 hours of sleep. Otherwise, their well-being can suffer. Among others, one of the most common impacts of lack of sleep is poor oral health. It can lead to the prevalence of dental caries. Not to mention, it can make the little ones neglect proper oral hygiene, such as regular brushing.