Has COVID-19 Impacted Our Teeth?

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended people’s lives in insane ways. With all the new stresses we face, it can be easy to let your oral health fall by the wayside. The stress of the pandemic combined with neglecting basic oral hygiene may have affected your oral health in ways you haven’t realized.

Stress-induced teeth grinding is one of the biggest problems facing Americans during the pandemic. Another problem is fractured teeth, which can be the result of mental stress as well as poor posture related to working from home. Many people have stopped maintaining good oral hygiene and nutrition, which has also impacted their oral health.

Stress-Induced Teeth Grinding

Organizations such as the American Dental Association haven’t performed any studies on increased teeth grinding since the pandemic started. On the other hand, we do have indicators that people have been struggling more with this dental problem. There has been a noticeable increase in stories of people grinding their teeth and clenching their jaw. Mouthguard sales have also been on the rise since the beginning of the pandemic.  

Grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw, also known as bruxism, is a common dental issue that many people will deal with at some point in their lives. Bruxism won’t do much harm in the short-term. But problems arise if it’s left unchecked for a long period of time. 

If left untreated, you may begin to develop teeth that are:

  • Worn down
  • Cracked
  • Chipped
  • Sensitive to hot or cold temperatures
  • Loose

Sometimes grinding your teeth can become so loud that you can wake up your partner in the middle of the night! If that’s happening, you should definitely call us to book an appointment. We offer simple solutions that can help protect your teeth from bruxism. 

Bruxism is often the result of stress, so it should come as no surprise that it and its symptoms are on the rise. Fortunately, most cases won’t require treatment, and cases that do are fairly easy to treat. Many people wear mouthguards to prevent grinding at night. You can also try stress management techniques and talk to your doctor about medications to help relieve stress.

Bruxism can also be the result of medications, sleep disorders, and medical conditions. Talk to one of our dentists about any of these factors that may be causing you to grind your teeth and clench your jaw. They can help you narrow down the cause of your bruxism and develop a plan to prevent any negative effects it may have.

Fractured Teeth

One dental problem dentists have seen more of since reopening has been fractured teeth. As Tammy Chen, DDS, put it in The New York Times:

I’ve seen more tooth fractures in the last six weeks than in the previous six years…when I reopened my practice in early June, the fractures started coming in: at least one a day, every single day that I’ve been in the office. On average, I’m seeing three to four; the bad days are six-plus fractures.

– The New York Times

Dr. Chen credits the rise in fractured teeth to pandemic-related stress and bruxism, but she also thinks there’s more to the story. She links the rise in fractured teeth specifically to:

  • Working from home
  • A lack of restorative sleep

Some people love the idea of working from home. Unfortunately, working from home during a pandemic probably isn’t what they had in mind. Rather than having a dedicated workspace that supports good posture, many people have found themselves cobbling together a workstation wherever they can. This has resulted in sitting for long periods of time with their shoulders hunched forward and a curved spine.

More and more people are also reporting a lack of restorative sleep due to restlessness and insomnia. And who can blame them? The problem is that it indicates a nervous system that’s constantly in “fight or flight” mode. This makes it harder to get to sleep, and the sleep you do get doesn’t provide the recharging effects that you need to function at your best. 

Working from home and lack of decent sleep can lead to teeth grinding, but what’s important to note is that stress manifests itself in different ways to cause grinding, which can eventually lead to fractured teeth.

Neglecting Basic Oral Hygiene

One of the biggest problems facing your oral health is neglecting basic oral hygiene. COVID-19 has disrupted our daily lives and our routines, which has made it easier to skip or even forget the basics of oral health. It’s also much easier to snack throughout the day, which can have a huge impact on the health of your teeth.

Basic Oral Hygiene

Most dental offices closed at the beginning of the pandemic, which made it difficult for people to get their routine cleanings and checkups. Since reopening, many offices have been playing catch-up. Seeing your dentist regularly is an essential part of basic oral health. However, waiting to see them during the pandemic means that you need to work extra hard to ensure you’re following the rest of the basics.

This means:

  • Brushing twice a day
  • Flossing at least once per day after eating

Brushing is your first line of defense from bacteria that can lead to problems such as tooth sensitivity and cavities. Ask your hygienist which toothbrush they recommend at your next appointment for the best brushing results. 

Flossing is also essential since it removes bacteria from between your teeth that a brush can’t reach. Flossing once per day after eating is a huge help in preventing gum disease.

Oral Health and Nutrition

Nutrition is another important factor for oral health. Working from home makes it a lot easier to snack and graze throughout the day, and chances are that you’re not eating the healthiest snacks when you do. Make sure to eat a diet that’s full of protein, calcium, as well as vitamins and minerals to protect your teeth. 

With all the stress of living day to day life during a pandemic, it’s important that you don’t neglect your oral health. Stress can affect your teeth in a number of ways such as teeth grinding caused by bruxism, which can lead to fractures as well as other dental problems. Make sure that you maintain good oral hygiene, nutrition, and visit us as soon as possible for a dental exam.

Are you concerned with how the pandemic may have affected your oral health? Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

Athens Family Dental is open Monday through Thursday to help with all your dental needs. Call us today at (423) 745-3559, or you can schedule an appointment online.

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