Teeth Grinding Increases as a Result of Pandemic-Related Stress

Monday, June 7, 2021
Teeth Grinding Increases as a Result of Pandemic-Related Stress

Most everyone agrees that the pandemic turned the world on its heels. You’d be hard-pressed to come up with anyone or any area of life left unscathed by COVID-19.

The dental realm, for example, experienced an initial pause while safety concerns and protocols were being investigated and established. Despite evidence-based findings confirming the safety of maintaining routine dental visits, people still were hesitant to resume routine dental care.

But, there was another aspect of dental care that remained below the radar until recently. Increasingly, studies indicate a rise in bruxism—more commonly known as teeth grinding—and other stress-related dental conditions are affecting the oral health of people everywhere.

Bruxism contributes to a host of dental issues. Learn more about what causes teeth grinding and how Penn Dental Family Practice can help if you’ve developed this stress-related habit as a byproduct of the pandemic.

Risk of Bruxism Increases with Stress and Anxiety

Black man wearing glasses holds his temple area from stress-related teeth grinding pain. In a poll from the Health Policy Institute (HPI), published by the American Dental Association (ADA) the week of February 15, 2021, upwards of 70% of dentists surveyed reported an increase in teeth grinding and clenching among patients. In addition, stress-related dental conditions such as chipped teeth, cracked teeth, and symptoms of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) are also on the rise.

The increase in teeth grinding alone, as reported by the surveyed dentists, had risen an astonishing 60% from fall 2020.

Why Do People Grind Their Teeth?

People grind their teeth during the day (awake bruxism) and while they rest (sleep bruxism). Both methods of teeth grinding can occur as the result of age (being more common among children), certain medications, and health conditions. People also grind their teeth during periods of increased anxiety, stress, anger, and frustration.

It’s no wonder, given that stress is a top cause of teeth grinding, that the pandemic triggered an increase in bruxism. According to research, 84% of adults expressed feeling an emotion linked with prolonged stress due to the pandemic.

Symptoms of Teeth Grinding

Dentist wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) explains teeth grinding symptoms to a female patient using mouth model.While some people may catch themselves grinding or clenching their teeth—even waking up because of it during sleep—others may have no realization. There are, however, several symptoms to indicate bruxism:

  • Wear and tear of the tooth enamel
  • Dull headaches (can feel centered in the area of the temple)
  • Increased tooth sensitivity and pain
  • Tight or sore jaw
  • Lose or fractured tooth/teeth
  • Pain that resembles an earache
  • Problems sleeping
Importance of Treating Bruxism

While mild cases of teeth grinding may not need to be treated, more severe cases of bruxism can cause several dental problems, which include:

  • Jaw disorders (including painful TMJ)
  • Damaged teeth
  • Headaches

 Female dentist wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) helps fit a young male patient with a mouthguard for bruxism.To prevent these outcomes (and others), your dentist will likely recommend:

  • Wearing a mouthguard. A generic or customized mouthguard can help separate and protect your teeth during sleep.
  • Undergoing dental correction. In more severe cases of teeth grinding, the teeth may be so damaged that reshaping or protection is needed (such as crowns or veneers.)
Can Teeth Recover From Grinding?

Once teeth have experienced the effects of grinding, they will not self-repair. However, as we explained above, your dentist can perform restorative and cosmetic procedures to improve the appearance and function of your teeth.

Help for Pandemic-Related Teeth Grinding

If you are one of the many people affected by teeth grinding due to pandemic-related stress or have any bruxism symptoms, Penn Dental Family Practice dental specialists can help. We continue to practice the highest standards of safety to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep our patients and dental staff protected. And, we utilize the latest approaches in dentistry, combined with state-of-the-art technology and techniques to provide dental patients with high-quality dental care.

Schedule a visit now. Or, call us anytime at 215-898-7337 for questions.