Tense Times Mean More Tooth-Grinding

WEDNESDAY, February 3, 2021 (HealthDay News) – If the stress of a pandemic makes you cringe, you are not alone.

Dentists say teeth grinding and jaw tightening are on the rise due to the many challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of patients looking for appointments to replace broken mouthguards,” said Dr. Leopoldo Correa, director of the Craniofacial Pain Center at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, Boston.

Squeaking and tightening (“bruxism”) can cause cracks, fillings and crowns; migraines and other headaches; pain in the face, neck and jaw.

“You can resolve a stressful situation in the short term, or it can continue and turn into chronic stress,” which can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, increased muscle tension, depression, inability to fall asleep or stay asleep and bruxism, Correa told me.

“There is some data that the amount of force we create by squeezing the jaw is around 300 pounds,” he said in a school statement.

Five to 10 minutes of jaw and facial exercise each day can help you cope, Correa suggested.

Here’s what to do: Keeping your teeth apart, bend your fingers, and place your knuckles on either side of your face. Give yourself a self-massage by pushing down. If possible, briefly apply heat or an ice pack to the side of the face before doing the stretching exercise.

Correa recommends doing this 5-10 minute workout in the morning, but especially in the afternoon or at the end of the workday when the muscles are most tired.

He added that you might need a mouthguard to separate your teeth and help prevent dental fractures. The protector can also reduce pain in the face or jaw.

Although over-the-counter mouthguards are available, your dentist can tailor one based on the size of your mouth and your symptoms, Correa said.

Dental insurance covers certain types of mouthguards. Depending on the diagnosis, they may even be covered by medical insurance, according to the press release.

More information

The American Dental Association has more on teeth grinding.

SOURCE: Tufts University, press release

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