The Pandemic and Grinding Your Teeth

Dental professionals are no strangers to global events as we dealt with the AIDS crisis in the ‘80s, when we adopted universal precautions as a way to treat everyone we see. As a result of using those precautions now, the American Dental Association have reported that there are no cases of COVID attributed to any dental offices in the US.  Overall, people are very concerned about their safety when visiting a dental office, and rightfully so. Dentists have an obligation to the public and their staffs to be hypervigilant about implementing protocols and guidelines that are issued by the ADA.

Since resuming business after the 2-month closure, we have seen that the majority of emergencies were broken and fractured teeth, requiring either a crown or a root canal and crown.

While treating these emergencies, as well as other patients who came into our office complaining of discomfort, we noted that clenching and grinding has increased significantly for patients. More interestingly, the grinding discussion is being initiated by patients with their dentists more so now than before COVID. In order to treat clenching and grinding in our office we have been fabricating more night guards. The effects of one or more broken teeth as a result of grinding and clenching can result in thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.

You may ask why is this problem becoming so prevalent? It is the level of stress that people are experiencing right now. The stress is affecting many aspects of our overall lives and health.

When talking with patients I can easily see that many factors are contributing to everyday stress and have truly disrupted people’s lives. People have uncertainty about their jobs. They’re home 24 hours a day with their families, often trying to do their own jobs remotely and being teacher to their children.  Regular routines have been upended, forcing stressful changes to our way of life. With gyms, religious institutions, and social circles limited, people do not have their usual outlets. We can all easily see just how difficult and stressful things have become.

Dentists approach is more than a night guard. I encourage you to make a conscientious effort to relax before bedtime. You may want to do some exercise, whether walking, biking, running, or easy stretching, maybe even a bit of meditation. Sometimes a short evening walk is relaxing.   Managing your stress level takes a conscious effort.