Don’t forget those “ZZZs.”

We do our best to take care of our bodies. We strive to eat nutrient-packed foods, get some exercise, and brush our teeth twice a day. Yet sometimes that doesn’t seem to be enough. There’s a vital part of our day-to-day health is regularly overlooked: sleep!

This goes for children as well! There’s a link between sleep patterns and pediatric oral health. Research shows that children who get too little sleep have a higher chance of ending up with dental caries, or cavities.

The Science Behind the Connection

Did you know that your sleep routine can affect your eating patterns? Studies show that sleeping less directly correlates with eating more. This is because of an imbalance in the hormones ghrelin and leptin. These two are responsible for controlling your appetite. The ghrelin hormone makes you hungry, and the leptin hormone helps you feel full. When a person gets too little sleep, these hormone levels are affected.

Pediatric Insights: Late Bedtimes and Dental Caries

But what does this have to do with teeth?

Children with late bedtimes tend to get less sleep than others. This does more than just potentially raise their appetite. Getting too little sleep can also decrease saliva flow, which makes it harder for our mouths to fight off bacteria while we sleep. This mixes with an increase in snacking, making it much easier for bacteria to eat away at the enamel and create cavities.

Sleep Duration and Tooth Decay Risk in Deciduous Teeth

Now, cavities aren’t only a problem for permanent, adult teeth. They can create issues for children who still have their baby teeth, also known as deciduous teeth.

Children who are trapped in a cycle of little sleep are more likely to end up with cavities. It’s a common belief that it’s not a big deal, as the baby teeth will simply fall away in a few years. But that can not be further from the truth. These deciduous teeth are the foundation for your child’s oral health, so it’s important to address sleep and oral problems early to help promote positive outcomes for their future smiles.

Sleep, Snacking, and Dental Health

When your leptin and ghrelin hormones are out of whack, it tends to affect your caloric intake. As expected, that midnight snacking (or snacking in general) comes into play. With these habits, a child’s BMI can increase, and their behavior can shift negatively. All of this creates the perfect storm for an increased risk of cavities.

Practical Implications for Parents

If your child is struggling to get adequate sleep, it can seem overwhelming. If you put them to bed at an appropriate time, and they won’t give in and sleep, what else can you do?

Firstly, be sure to keep up with those regular dental cleanings. These appointments are a great opportunity to discuss the problem with the pediatric dentist, as well as keep an eye out for any potential issues before they have a chance to get out of hand.

Continue to encourage your child to keep up with those good daily habits like brushing their teeth for two minutes, twice a day, and flossing at least once per day. This is your first line of defense against potential cavities, after all.

At bedtime, work on creating a relaxing routine for them. Whether that’s reading a bedtime story to help them wind down, restricting screen time for an hour before it’s time to turn the lights out, or even just sitting around in the living room and talking about their day. Adjust the routine to fit your specific child, as everyone’s needs are different, but once you come up with something, stick to it!

Creating a routine that works for your family will be worth it in the long run. Not only will it make the whole household just a little happier, but it will foster better appetite regulation and improved oral health.

If the problem persists, contact their pediatrician. They might have some extra tips and tricks up their sleeve.

Sleep Time

Though it is frequently overlooked, a child’s sleep does more than affect their mental health. It can affect their appetite, mood, and even have a direct correlation with their oral health. Take the steps to prioritize your child’s sleep—the effort will be worth it. It might just make a difference to more things than you think!

Remember to keep up with those regular dental cleanings! We here at We Make Kids Smile are ready to keep your little ones smiling by tracking down those issues before they get out of hand. If you need to make an appointment, you can do so in just a few clicks here!

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