Dreams: for some of us, they’re grand adventures we get to enjoy on a nightly basis. For others, they’re forms of habitual terror. Maybe you’re someone who remembers your dreams, maybe not. Either way, I guarantee you have them.
Though scientists are still working out why we dream, they theorize that the process helps our brains organize the information we have taken in during the day, perhaps relating it to past experience, recognizing patterns, storing what’s useful, and working through what’s traumatic.
Teeth may not be the first thing you think of when considering your dreams (unless they make an appearance there), but there’s a lot going on for your teeth during the night.
Your sleeping position can impact how your teeth shift over time, even into your adulthood. Your oral health can suffer from a lack of protective saliva overnight if you experience dry mouth while you sleep. And you may damage your teeth significantly if you have a nighttime habit of grinding them.
However, there are even more significant ways in which your teeth and your dreams interweave and influence each other during sleep. In this article, we’ll look at five.
1. Dreams of teeth falling may relate to tooth discomfort.
People dream of their teeth falling out so commonly that the internet is overflowing with interpretations for such dreams. Some of the most well-known explanations for dreams of teeth falling out include an underlying fear of losing control, a sense that you are not taking care of yourself, or subconscious awareness of tension in the mouth.
In fact, one dream study in Israel found a notable correlation between tooth-related dreams and tension around the teeth during sleep. According to the findings, experiencing pain or tenderness in your teeth or gums may increase the odds that you have tooth-centered dreams.
2. Tooth pain can increase at night and impact dreams.
Given the finding that tooth tenderness could bring on teeth-related dreams, it’s notable that tooth pain, such as what you might experience from a cavity or infection, can increase at night.
Obviously, a nighttime habit of teeth grinding can contribute to pain or tenderness. But even if you do not grind or clench, the act of lying down can increase discomfort because the position brings more blood flow to the head. This is the same reason that certain kinds of headaches will worsen when lying down.
Alternatively, the increase in dental pain could be more perception than reality, a result of the fact that there is little else to distract you from the discomfort when lying in bed.
Whatever the case, do not dismiss oral pain even if it only occurs at night. Ignoring the pain in and around your teeth can lead to serious consequences. So, always seek a professional opinion if you are experiencing pain or discomfort.
3. Nightmares that disrupt sleep can increase teeth grinding.
A nightmare every now and again is fairly common, but for those who suffer regularly, nightmares can have a significant effect on physical well-being, including oral health.
Because stress can contribute to both nightmares and to teeth grinding, it is impossible to point to a single cause-and-effect relationship here. Frequent nightmares can impact the quality of sleep, leading to daytime fatigue and physical stress, both of which increase teeth grinding at night. But work tasks, family tension, and traumatic events can also create deep-seated anxieties that increase both nightmares and teeth grinding simultaneously.
So, these relationships work in multiple ways and may become self-perpetuating if not addressed through stress relief or therapy.
4. Most teeth grinding happens early in the sleep cycle.
Given the mental activity of dreams and nightmares, you might think that most teeth grinding happens during the vivid dreaming stage of sleep: REM sleep. Not so.
Most teeth grinding happens during stages 1 and 2 of sleep, both of which are NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep that centers around physical relaxation more than dreaming.
Grinding your teeth early in your sleep cycle, however, is harmful because it can disrupt your body’s ability to drop into stage 3 sleep, which is deep, physically and mentally restorative sleep, and REM sleep, which is important for your memory, cognitive ability, and creativity.
5. Teeth grinding can disrupt your dream time.
Just because teeth grinding during REM sleep is rarer doesn’t mean it never happens. In fact, some sources suggest that grinding during REM sleep can be more intense and damaging to your teeth and gums than grinding during other stages of sleep.
If you suspect you are grinding your teeth during any stage of sleep, you should wear a night guard to protect your teeth and gums from long-term damage, such as enamel wear, gum recession, chipped teeth, and loose teeth. After all, you don’t want those nightmares about losing teeth to become a reality. Visit TeethNightGuard to find affordable custom-made teeth grinding night guards that you can order right from home.
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