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Posted on September 21, 2020
Dentists all over the country have noticed a strange trend. We’re suddenly seeing a lot of patients with tooth pain, cracked teeth, and broken restorations. What’s up with that?
Obviously 2020 has been a pretty crazy year. (Who had “murder hornets” on their 2020 bingo card?) When we are under prolonged stress, our bodies can build up anxious energy. To try and get rid of some of that energy overflow, the muscles in our face and jaw start working overtime. It usually happens while we are sleeping, but may happen during the day as well. Especially in traffic.
That excess pressure can really cause serious problems for your teeth, and lots of pain for you. We’ve talked about what chronic grinding can do long-term. But what if you’ve never been a grinder before? How do you know if you’re grinding, and when do you need to see a dentist?
First of all, you may not even realize you’re grinding. Most of us don’t. This is part of why keeping up with your regular dental visits is so vital, especially during this very trying time. However, you can also keep an eye out for things like cold sensitivity, waking up with sore teeth, or pain when you bite. Sometimes this “twinge” or pain can be very obvious. But many times, patients describe it as “not really pain, but I’m more aware of this area over here.”
Sharp pain when chewing or heat sensitivity are especially significant. If any areas are aching, throbbing, or tender to the touch, you need to come in right away for us to take a look.
Your teeth may not be the primary place you feel the effects of grinding. Instead, your grinding or clenching might come out as a mild headache in the morning when you wake up. Or, for many of us, we start waking up with a crick in our neck that makes it feel like we can’t turn one way. All this happens because we are working those muscles overtime. This can strain the muscles, and even create muscle pulls or full spasms. All that tension can radiate and cause some really annoying symptoms.
Not to be “that guy,” but stress management and self-care are more than just catch phrases. Not all grinding is stress related, but stress can be a major trigger for most of us. Five minutes of deep breathing or guided meditation before bed, maybe a nice bath, some chamomile tea, these seemingly trivial rituals can really go a long way to reduce your grinding habit.
However, if your teeth are starting to show the strain, we need to go a step further. You may need a night guard. Most of my patients who wear one report deeper sleep and less headaches and stiff neck in the morning. Plus, a guard will protect your enamel and prevent cracks. Win win! (But just a reminder, DO NOT use an over-the-counter guard. They can do more harm than good.)
If you’re having acute muscular symptoms, like a muscles spasm or tight jaw that makes it difficult to eat, we usually recommend a warm compress, some ibuprofen (if you can take it), and a soft diet for a day or two. But that guard is really going to help prevent muscle spasms from becoming chronic. For some patients, we may also refer you for Botox to decrease the intensity of those closing muscles.
While we can’t make this year much less stressful, we can take one thing off your mind. Don’t let stress damage your teeth. Continuing your regular dental health routine is an essential part of protecting your overall health. Just think of it as a spa-day for your oral health. Take care and de-stress, Orlando!
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