It’s no secret that the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak is causing people a lot of stress – but that stress is showing in some surprising ways.  One of the most unexpected side effects is a rise in bruxism, or teeth-grinding, when people sleep. 

Staying calm during the outbreak is a good idea in general, but it could help you protect your teeth too!

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism is a general term for people clenching their jaws when they sleep, causing their teeth to grind together throughout the night.  Since this means several hours of force on the teeth, every night, this can quickly do a lot of damage to the teeth!

There are a lot of possible causes of bruxism, and not all of them have been fully researched.  Stress was long believed to be a major factor causing teeth-grinding, but that seems to have been demonstrated in the last year.  Here at our practice, and at other New Jersey dentists we’ve talked to, there have been far more people showing signs of bruxism than in the past.

night guard
dental night guard

It certainly seems to be linked to stress over COVID-19, and other stresses in the world today.

How Can Bruxism Be Prevented?

Generally speaking, the best cure is to de-stress.  As any holistic dentist knows, too much stress is terrible for the body in so many ways.  It raises blood pressure and puts people at more risk of heart disease or strokes.  It takes a mental toil as well, making people more irritable or prone to make bad judgement calls.

Plus, as discussed, it can damage your teeth as well.

If a patient can’t find ways to de-stress, dental specialists do have ways of reducing the harm caused by bruxism.  The most common solution is using mouth guards.  These are small pieces of plastic, custom molded to a person’s teeth, which they wear at night.  The guard adds a protective barrier that prevents the teeth from directly coming into contact with each other.

In more severe cases, medical intervention may be necessary.  For example, some patients may receive shots of botox into the muscles surrounding their jaw, to loosen those muscles and prevent clenching at night.

If you’ve been waking up in the morning feeling like your teeth hurt or finding tiny bits of tooth material in your mouth, you may be suffering from bruxism.  Contact your local New Jersey dentist for an appointment for further evaluation.