Royal Oak and Birmingham, MI
The perils of the COVID-19 pandemic are still upon us. As if quarantining at home for weeks on end, watching or hearing about sick friends and loved ones battle the virus, and working from home wasn’t enough, we’re now hearing a lot about COVID fatigue. Dentists across the U.S. report that COVID-19 fatigue is leading to another epidemic – jaw pain. While the COVID-19 vaccine instills hope in many of us, experts agree that it could still be a year or longer before life returns to “normal,” leaving many Americans to take out their stress and anxiety on their teeth. It’s common for adults to clench and grind their teeth while sleeping, which is known as bruxism, but dentists are seeing alarming rates of patients experiencing jaw pain as a result of COVID-19 fatigue. Today on the blog, Dr. Nancy Hartrick, a TMJ dentist in Detroit, shares how COVID-19 fatigue affects dental health and why you shouldn’t ignore your jaw pain.
How does COVID-19 lead to jaw pain?
A recent online article quotes Dr. Mark Drangsholt, chair of the Department of Oral Medicine at the University of Washington’s School of Dentistry, stating that it’s normal for adults to experience stressful events or times throughout life. But that we’re experiencing an epidemic of jaw pain right now, and it’s due to extreme stress felt by many adults during the pandemic. Adults are stressed out, worried about how they will pay their mortgage and other bills, how to keep their family healthy, whether or not they will keep their jobs, plus many families are dealing with virtual learning, which is stressful for both kids and parents. Additionally, many people are losing sleep over the pandemic. Naturally, bruxism may develop or worsen when a sleep disorder like insomnia or sleep apnea exists. The constant clenching and grinding of the teeth can cause significant damage from fracturing or cracking teeth or damaging existing fillings or crowns. Not only does this lead to costly dental repairs, but it means having something else to worry about during the pandemic.
How can I protect my teeth during the COVID-19 pandemic?
It may sound alarming, but there is actually a simple solution to protecting your teeth during the pandemic and beyond. Wear a mouthguard. We’re not talking about those cheap boil-and-bite mouthguards you can pick up at your local pharmacy or order online. Instead, Dr. Hartrick offers custom-made mouth guards that are comfortable and effective to wear while sleeping. The mouth guard is designed to fit over your teeth to absorb the shock when you clench, and when you grind your teeth, the mouth guard is what is worn down, instead of your teeth and dental restorations.
How can I tell if I have bruxism?
If you’re feeling more stressed than usual, especially during the pandemic, you could be clenching and grinding your teeth unknowingly. Bruxism is evident if you have worn down teeth. Look in the mirror to see if the chewing surfaces of your teeth look smooth or flat. Other signs that you grind your teeth at night include gum recession, tooth sensitivity, morning headaches, and orofacial pain. Orofacial pain may include toothaches, pain when biting or chewing, or jaw joint pain. A dental exam will also reveal to your dentist whether you have bruxism. Also, keep in mind that teens and young children may also suffer from bruxism. Patients tend to assume that kids aren’t susceptible to stress like adults. However, remember that your kids have been through a lot too. Remaining socially distant, unable to visit extended family members, and virtual learning has added a lot of stress on kids during the pandemic. So, check-in with your child to see how they feel about the pandemic. If you’re worried that your child may have bruxism, or they have mentioned symptoms associated with clenching and grinding their teeth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Hartrick.
TMJ Dentist in Detroit and Royal Oak, Michigan
Managing stress is essential for overall health. If you’re feeling stressed during the pandemic, find ways to relax like exercise, meditation, or see a therapist. However, if you’re stress leads to nighttime bruxism, it’s time to see the dentist. Dr. Hartrick is a top-rated TMJ dentist serving Detroit and Royal Oak. If you experience jaw pain or believe that you have bruxism, schedule an appointment by calling (248) 549-0950. Hartrick Dentistry provides TMJ evaluations, custom mouth guards for bruxism and help managing orofacial myofunctional pain. To learn more, please contact us today for an appointment.