How Coronavirus Stress is Causing Cracked Teeth and Jaw Pain
Noticing more frequent jaw pain? You’re not alone. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, dentists across the country are reporting an increase in cracked teeth, fillings and jaw pain— dental side effects caused by nighttime teeth clenching known as bruxism.
The suspect behind this landslide of dental complaints? Coronavirus stress. While treating these issues may be as simple as a nighttime mouthguard or Botox® injection, understanding the connection between stress and dental problems is critical to providing a long-term solution.
What is Bruxism?
Often triggered by stress, bruxism is the jaw clenching and grinding that can occur as you sleep. For approximately 60% of adults, these movements are benign and don’t cause any problems. For a select few, however, the constant grinding can result in painful jaw movements and cracked teeth. The impacts of bruxism can have a domino effect beyond the mouth and jaw if left untreated. Headaches, ear pain, and even neck soreness can all be traced back to persistent bruxism.
How are Bruxism and Pandemic Stress Related?
Between work, family, finances, and other consequences of living, adults face stressful situations on a daily basis. However, the coronavirus pandemic is quickly adding on a new dimension of uncertainty to nearly every facet of life. While there is limited research available, preliminary studies suggest that individuals (particularly healthcare providers) are more vulnerable to excessive psychological stress caused by the pandemic.
In turn, increased stress exposure can overstimulate the amygdala— the part of the brain responsible for emotional regulation. Too much stimulation, and the body begins to show physical responses, such as jaw clenching and grinding, a.k.a. bruxism. And with so much stress and uncertainty going on these days, it’s not hard to see how the pandemic is leading to a rise in bruxism and other physical signs of stress.
How Can I Limit My Stress?
While this may seem like the million-dollar question, there are easy-to-adopt techniques that can help you cope with coronavirus stress:
Take a Break: Doom scrolling on social media and news sites or channels can easily become overwhelming and add stress to your day. Instead, give yourself a certain amount of time to get up to speed with the latest information, and then simply move on with your day.
Follow a Schedule: Whether that’s getting up at the same time on the weekdays or taking a daily walk in the evenings, establishing a schedule that’s similar to your pre-pandemic life and sticking to it can help provide stability to long days at home.
Connect with Others: While shelter-in-place rules are still in effect across much of the country, there are other ways you can stay connected with friends and family members. Scheduling weekly video chats or phone calls with loved ones are a great way to keep in touch safely.
Focus on Self-Care: Even with so much time at home, it can seem difficult to focus on your own needs. However, carving out a few minutes each day to practice self-care can help keep your spirits high and fight back stress. While everyone’s idea of self-care may differ, some simple forms of self-care include meditation, exercise, healthy eating, taking a relaxing bath, reading a book, or even focused breathing. Whatever helps you relax, try it.
During these difficult times, the team at Desert Med Aesthetics is here to support all our patients. For more tips on how to cope with coronavirus stress, or to learn about treatments that can alleviate stress-related jaw pain, call 760-777-8772 and schedule a virtual consultation with Dr. Cosgrove.