Silent But Deadly COVID-19 Stress & Teeth Grinding

Girl with a sore jaw from teeth grinding

Is Covid-19 stress causing you jaw pain?

Although COVID-19 vaccines have limited the number of medical emergencies, someone forgot to tell our teeth as the stress of the pandemic has created a lot more teeth problems.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA) dentists have seen a lot more patients that have had teeth grinding issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, but what is causing this?

Understanding the seriousness of stress on your teeth’ health

Dentists have never seen anything like this before according to Dr. Rana Stino from Watch Tower Dental Care in Chicago who has seen patients that are clenching, grinding, and cracking their teeth more to the point that even their bite guards are getting fractured.  An ADA poll that was conducted in October 2021 revealed that 69% of dentists have been treating more stress-related teeth problems which include TMD joint dysfunction and 63% of these dentists actually had patients with more chipped or cracked teeth that require crowns, bridges, or inlays/Onlays to fix.

Dr. Joel Berg who is a former president at the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry said that it is very important to stay on top of and catch these potential problems early on by attending regular dental appointments and having a custom night-guard, retainer or if necessary botox injections to help reduce jaw pain.  Dr. Berg also stressed the importance of reducing stress to target teeth grinding at the underlying cause through activities like massage, acupuncture, yoga, or meditation.

It doesn’t help that most patients with teeth grinding issues aren’t even aware that it’s happening, and the pandemic prevented many of them from seeing their dentist with some not having come back since then.  Some patients disclosed that they experienced stress related to juggling the children being at home, the disruption of their routines, or losing their jobs.

How do Dentists know that you grind your teeth?

According to Dr. Stino, the most obvious indicators of teeth grinding are cheek biting marks and wear patterns on the patient’s cheeks.  Other warning signs that can lead to jaw pain include headaches or ringing of your ear and pain in your neck, shoulders, and/or back.  Dr. Karen Fields who also saw an increase in patients with these symptoms said  “The pandemic had caused the greatest number of cracked teeth she has ever seen, the heightened levels of stress had led to a psychological habit of grinding and clenching teeth.  Increased stressors tend to increase the damage we do to our teeth.”

How to prevent or reduce teeth grinding?

A sleeping patient because of a custom nightguard.

A bruxism night guard will help you protect your teeth and let you sleep soundly.

It is very important to visit your dentist consistently because there are many ways to protect your teeth before they become severely cracked and may need to be removed.  Your dentist could recommend dental crowns, overlays, and bridges to protect particular teeth or a bruxism nightguard that is customized to comfortably fit in your mouth which will prevent teeth grinding and allow you to sleep better.  At our dental clinic in London Ontario, we know that avoiding the wearing down of teeth is priority number 1.

The key to reducing teeth grinding is managing your stress with these great strategies by Web MD that include accepting that you cannot control everything, keeping a positive attitude, asserting your feelings, managing time better, scheduling time for your hobbies, seeing a psychologist, seek social support and never rely on drugs/alcohol or anything that can further stress your body.

Some strategies that have been proven to reduce stress are having the proper diet, getting the right amount of sleep, exercising, and relaxation techniques (yoga, meditation, deep breathing, etc).   You can see a complete list of recommended activities and why they reduce stress by clicking here:

As we deal with inflation, rising costs of food and gas, and other stressors that many of our ancestors didn’t have to deal with this trend of teeth grinding problems are not expected to decrease without proper teeth grinding prevention devices and stress management routines.