• Dentists are seeing a rise in cracked teeth amid the pandemic.
  • Some theorise the added stress and anxiety is leading to more people grinding their teeth. 
  • Bruxism, better known as teeth grinding, can cause tension headaches and tooth fractures.
  • Mouthguards and therapy for stress are the top treatments for teeth grinding. 
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Pandemic-induced stress is taking a toll on our mental health, physical health, and overall well-being.

Now dentists are now having to combat an unexpected consequence of stress, as more people come into their offices with cracked teeth, according to the New York Times.

"When I reopened my practice in early June, the fractures started coming in: at least one a day, every single day that I've been in the office," Dr. Tammy Chen, a New York City-based prosthodontist, wrote for the New York Times. "On average, I'm seeing three to four; the bad days are six-plus fractures." 

According to Chen, the cracks are likely caused by an increase in stress-induced bruxism, better known as teeth grinding. 

People have been sharing their own stories on social media of teeth grinding, cracked teeth, and other dental complications. 

"Yup. Had to get a very expensive root canal and will have my first crown placed this month for this very reason. (Also I'm pretty sure I've slightly damaged the temporary filling). The body keeps the score," one Twitter user wrote in response to the New York Times article. 

"Hahahaha, at the beginning of the pandemic, I couldn't open my mouth for two weeks, because I ground my teeth so hard, I got muscle spasms in my face. We all know what's going on," another wrote in response to the discourse on cracked teeth. 

Stress and anxiety can manifest as teeth grinding at night

Teeth grinding can be caused by any number of things, but one of the most common factors is stress. 

From fear of contracting the virus to grief over lost family members and friends, lots of people have been coping with elevated stress.

In mid-March, Chen "noticed an uptick in phone calls: jaw pain, tooth sensitivity, achiness in the cheeks, migraines, " she wrote. These are all symptoms of bruxism.

What starts out as clenching at night can escalate to teeth grinding and even fractures if the root cause isn't addressed.

Tension headaches, tight jaw muscles, worn down tooth enamel, and sleep disruptions are all symptoms to look out for if you are worried about cracking your teeth, according to The Mayo Clinic

Hours of remote working can take a hard toll on your back, leading to teeth grinding 

Another cause of bruxism is poor posture.

Because many people rapidly had to create workspaces at home — sometimes on couches, in cars, and even inside bathtubs — people working remotely may be suffering the consequences of bad back support. 

"The awkward body positions that ensue can cause us to hunch our shoulders forward, curving the spine into something resembling a C-shape," Chen wrote. 

The curved spine can put pressure on the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jawbone to the skull. The added pressure on the TMJ during the day can lead to teeth grinding at night, raising your chance of sustaining a fractured or cracked tooth. 

The most common ways to treat teeth grinding are therapy and a mouthguard

The most common treatments for teeth grinding are therapy to address any underlying stress that could be causing the bruxism and a mouthguard to wear at night. 

However, it's important to be aware of how your teeth are interacting throughout the day. According to Chen, your teeth should not be touching at all throughout the day unless you are eating. 

If you notice tension in your jaw or any of the above symptoms, consider speaking to your dentist about a plan to address it before you need dental surgery for a fracture.

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