Dentists are reporting a surge in problems related to tooth-grinding and jaw-clenching in the last few months. The pandemic stress could be the culprit.
The technical term for disordered teeth-grinding is bruxism and the behavior falls into two categories; while awake and while asleep. Sixty percent of adults exhibit some amount of rhythmic movement and muscle contractions in their jaws during sleep, studies show. For most people jaw movements during sleep don’t cause problems. But as clenching and grinding become more powerful and frequent, people can start to experience symptoms such as jaw pain, headaches, temperature sensitivity in their teeth, or damage to teeth or fillings.
During a 24-hour period, studies suggest that our teeth should be pressed against each other for a maximum of about 10 minutes. Any more than that can become a problem.
Studies have shown that nighttime teeth-grinding commonly occurs in people who experience stress, anxiety, depression, or other psychological issues. Stress is a common reaction to what people are experiencing right now; uncertainty about the future, a sense of powerlessness, feelings of being overwhelmed, and doubts about the ability to cope. Regardless of the cause, if you start to notice symptoms from clenching and grinding, there are things you can do to mitigate the potential negative consequences.
- Remind yourself to relax
- Sit your tongue passively on the floor of your mouth
- See your dentist for a custom oral appliance, also known as a mouth guard
A mouth guard can provide an important protective barrier to nighttime grinding and toothmashing. It can distribute the force of clenching instead of concentrating it onto specific teeth. A custom night guard is a simple 10-minute appointment where we take an impression and then fabricate it in the office to be picked up later that same day or the next day! It’s easier to replace plastic than it is to replace teeth, crowns and fillings.