Could Being a Night Owl Increase Your Cavity Risk?

According to a study published online (but still waiting for print) in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene, people who stay up late at night might be at a greater risk for cavities than those who do not stay up late. This might have been related to their oral hygiene habits.

Teens, Teeth, and Sleep

The study was based on the dental health of nearly 200 teens, who were divided into categories based on their circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm refers to a person’s personal sleep/wake cycle, when their body naturally tends to be alert and when it is sleepy, wanting to rest. Teens were divided into those who were neutral (about 50% of the sample), those who were alert in the evening and sleepy in the morning (“night owls,” 37%) and those who were alert in the morning (“early birds,” 13%).

Being a Night Owl and Your Dental Health
After accounting for demographics and other factors, researchers found that night owls were nearly four times as likely to develop cavities as either the neutral or the early bird teens.

Personal Habits and Oral Hygiene

So, what accounts for the difference? The study posits two behavioral differences that could play a significant role. Night owls were less likely to report that they brush their teeth twice a day or that they ate breakfast every day.

It’s easy to see how less toothbrushing might lead to more cavities. But what about breakfast? How could breakfast translate into protecting your teeth from decay? Simple: people who eat breakfast are less likely to snack during the morning (or all day) than those who skip breakfast. This is especially important if a person brushes after breakfast, but doesn’t brush after snacking through the morning.

Several other personal habits that were not accounted for in this study could impact cavity risk. For example, evening types are more likely to be smokers, and smoking has a negative impact of oral health. They may also drink more caffeinated beverages, which can include sodas, energy drinks, and coffee-based drinks with high levels of sugar.  Another potential lifestyle habit that goes with a night owl behavior is consumption of alcohol. Although that wasn’t a factor in this survey, drinking more alcohol does increase your risk of cavities and gum disease. Partly because people who are consuming alcohol consume more sugars and they are more likely to skip brushing in the evening as well as the morning.

If you are looking for a Las Vegas dentist who can perform checkups and cleanings or provide reconstructive dentistry if your teeth have already been damaged, please call (702) 873-0324 for an appointment at the office of Dr. James B. Polley.