A Pandemic, Stress, & Your Teeth
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of in one way or another, but stress seems to be the thing most of us have in common. Whether you are struggling with online learning with your children, social isolation, financial stress, or in the worse cases you or a loved one have become infected, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has brought a lot of stress into our lives.
In Dentistry, we are seeing the effects of this stress on our patient’s teeth. Since the pandemic began, we’ve had more people complaining of headaches, jaw soreness, and cracked teeth. Stress triggers us to clench our teeth and in many cases grinding occurs. This is called bruxism. Bruxism causes cracked and chipped enamel, hairline fractures, broken cusps and even wearing down or flattening of the teeth. Sometimes patients notice they are grinding or clenching but other times it’s happening unconsciously.
Are your teeth touching as you read this?
Your jaw should be naturally relaxed with a bit of space between your upper and lower teeth when your lips are closed. If your teeth are touching, your jaw is clinched and damage is occurring. Our teeth are naturally brittle with microscopic fissures occurring over time from eating, chewing, and everyday use. Clenching and grinding cause these fissures to grow larger until your tooth eventually breaks, requiring a crown, root canal or in some cases the loss of the tooth. Similar to a crack in a chair leg that begins as a hairline, but every time someone sits in it, the crack gets bigger until it finally snaps.
What can you do?
Well…the obvious answer is to reduce stress in your life. But in 2020, that is easier said than done. This article in Harvard Health has some great ideas for helping you relax and decrease muscle tension. Try working some of these into your mid-day and before bed routine.
We also recommend wearing a bite guard. Bite Guards are custom made to fit your teeth and position your jaw so that it is unable to clench or grind. Most people wear them at night when they sleep, but in times like this, you may want to pop it in during the day as well.
Is It Safe to Have Dental Care During the Pandemic?
Some people have expressed concern about going to the dentist during this pandemic. Fortunately, there is no reason you should have to avoid dental care during this time. At Start Smiling Dental, we have done extensive research to make sure both our patients and our team are protected. Our team STRICTLY follows the guidelines set forth by the CDC, OSHA, and ADA in regards to personal protective equipment (PPE) and office sterilization. This includes face shields, KN95 masks, gowns, gloves, etc… We also have the Synexis System which releases dry hydrogen peroxide to reduce viruses, bacteria, and mold in our air.
Sticking to your normal dental care schedule will help catch any signs of grinding or clinching before you cause extensive damage to your teeth. It also makes sure any other dental problems are found while they are small. This saves you time, money, and best of all – your smile!