If you’re anything like me, the many stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic have manifested in both your physical and psychological health. Ranging from neck pain to “maskne” (mask-acne) to extra gray hairs – our bodies have been affected in different ways. Stress activates our sympathetic nervous system, releases hormones, and causes a fight-or-flight response. Over a prolonged period of time, this response can start to become harmful.
As dentists, we have recently started to notice a trend of stress-related dental conditions. More than ever, we have started to see more patients for jaw pain, teeth grinding, and fractured teeth. These conditions have traditionally known to be caused by periods of stress for patients. Keep reading to learn more about different treatment options for these common stress-related dental conditions!
TMD, which stands for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, refers to any pain or discomfort related to your jaw joint or muscles. This is a broad diagnosis! It can manifest as joint pain, facial muscle pain, headaches, joint locking, and sometimes can also include tooth damage from clenching/grinding. These symptoms can be caused by a variety of reasons. We always recommend a dental evaluation to determine the cause and the best treatment for you. Common treatments for TMD can include warm compresses, massage, occlusal guards (night guard) and many more options.
Teeth Grinding and Clenching
Grinding and clenching are common stress-induced habits. Unfortunately, in addition to potentially causing TMD symptoms, these habits can also damage your teeth. Treatment options will depend on how long you have been clenching/grinding, and the severity of the tooth damage (see next section). For these patients we almost always recommend an occlusal guard. This prevents you from grinding and damaging your teeth overnight.
Grinding, or stress snacking on extra-hard foods, can often result in fractured teeth! The size of the fracture often dictates the treatment required. Small fractures in your tooth can often be repaired with fillings or crowns. Deeper fractures may require a root canal or extraction.
So what should you do if you’re experiencing any of these conditions?
If you think this applies to you, come in for an evaluation! We will perform an examination and take radiographs to determine your diagnosis, and develop a treatment plan specifically for you. Some stress-related dental conditions can be complicated to treat, and often involve the coordination of multiple specialist providers.