The media is full of information about the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on recovered patients. Some long-haul symptoms are unpleasant, but a topic that is getting less attention than it deserves is the way the coronavirus affects oral health. Reports by dentists show that the stress of living through the global pandemic is causing an increase in conditions like bruxism, which can result in lasting damage to the teeth and jaw.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is the dental term for tooth grinding and clenching. While most dental grinding happens during sleep, tooth clenching (and even grinding) can take place at any time of the day or night. It’s a condition that’s often related to stress or anxiety, and many people who experience the symptoms of bruxism are unaware of them.
The pandemic has caused higher levels of stress, which even affects people who haven’t contracted the coronavirus. This is resulting in more cases of bruxism in recent months than dentists have experienced in the past.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of bruxism can often be mistaken for other conditions, including migraine headaches, earache and mouth sores. The most common signs are chipped or cracked teeth, pain and tension in the face and jaw muscles, and headaches. In some cases, patients might become aware of a clicking or “popping” sound where the jawbone connects with their skull. This is the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and if this is affected by pressure from clenching and grinding it can result in the dislocation of the jaw.
When to Seek Treatment
It’s important to get dental care early if you experience oral discomfort. Tooth sensitivity, facial pain, and signs of wear on your tooth surfaces could all be indications that you are clenching or grinding your teeth either during waking hours or while asleep. Consulting with a dentist during COVID-19 is one of the lowest-risk actions you can take, with evidence showing that dental offices have excellent hygiene management overall and extremely low incidences of infection.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To diagnose bruxism, the dentist will examine your teeth for signs of flattened tips, worn tooth enamel, locking of the jawbone, and damage to the inner surface of your cheeks. If bruxism is identified, your practitioner will recommend treatment options such as:
- Biofeedback to determine how much muscle activity exists in your mouth and jaw, so you can identify ways to change the behavior.
- Learning to rest your tongue, teeth, and lips in the correct position to reduce the pressure on your jaw.
- Fitting with a mouthguard to wear that will absorb the force of your bite, either at night while sleeping or during daylight hours if you grind your teeth while awake.
- Referral to a medical practitioner to address your underlying stress and anxiety.
- Medication to treat stress, as well as antibiotics to address any infection caused by the bruxism and over-the-counter painkillers to provide short-term relief. In some instances, antidepressants can cause bruxism, so you might also benefit from a review of your existing medications.
Just because we’re currently in a pandemic is no reason to ignore your oral health and risk future problems. Get the care you need in a clean, safe, and COVID-free environment by scheduling an appointment with your dentist.
Professional Endodontics offers state-of-the-art facilities in Clarkston, Clinton Township, St. Clair Shores, and Southfield. All locations offer the latest in advanced dental delivery systems, microscopy, and digital radiography.
6803 Dixie Highway
Clarkston, MI 48346
29201 Telegraph Road
Southfield, MI 48034
Henry Ford Hospital Medical Pavilion
16151 19 Mile Rd, Suite 101
Clinton Township, MI 48038
St. Clair Shores
St. Clair Professional Plaza
23829 Little Mack, Suite 300
St. Clair Shores, MI 48080