On May 19, 2021, the New York Times published an article citing the following:
“There are early indications that the pandemic is taking a serious, and potentially long-lasting, toll on our oral health. In September, even before the winter coronavirus surge in the United States, an American Dental Association survey found that more than half of the dentists who responded were seeing an increase in stress-related conditions among patients. These included teeth grinding, cracked and chipped teeth and symptoms of temporomandibular joint dysfunction, like jaw pain. More than a quarter of the dentists reported an increase in cavities and gum disease — quite likely a result of changes in people’s diets and hygiene.”
We can only speak to what we have seen with our own patients, but we have definitely noticed this trend and it has been a regular topic of conversation in our office. Don’t get us wrong, clenching and grinding and the wear and damage it causes are nothing new. We have been educating our patients on this and treating it with splints aka night guards for years and seeing great results,however in this past year we have been seeing a lot more of our patients coming in with broken restorations or severe cracks due to excessive force being placed on their teeth!
So, what does this mean for you?
If you are already a clencher or grinder…. or both… Beware. The inevitable extra stress in your life could be causing you to clench and grind harder at night, and even throughout the day. Raise your awareness if you can, and notice what you are doing with your jaw while you’re doing things like driving, working on a computer or even watching tv. If you have a nightguard, be sure that you are wearing it every night. As much as we would like them to, our brains don’t turn off while we are sleeping and you can’t control the damage you might be doing to your teeth, the only thing you can do is protect them with your nightguard! You also might want to consider wearing your nightguard during the day for extra protection, after all, we’re all wearing masks so who’s going to see anyways! If you don’t have a nightguard or haven’t been treated in any way for clenching or grinding and you think that you might be at risk, talk to your dentist. Evidence of these conditions is very easy to identify if you are looking in the right place, and an early investment in a splint or nightguard can save you thousands in the long run by preventing damage to and even loss of your teeth!!