There’s a lot of cracked teeth, jaw pains, tooth grinding and stress happening right now because of COVID19!

Stress can cause clenching, grinding (bruxing), jaw and muscle pain, broken teeth and cracked fillings!

Article written by Dr Tim Wenas

The last few months have been very difficult for everyone!

COVID19 has caused unprecedented trauma and stress to everyone. Worrying about jobs, bills, work, getting sick plus concerns for family, friends and relatives all adds up. This causes problems for our mental health – and even if you feel fine, there’s a lot of un-noticed stress still below the surface.

Stress can cause unconscious cleanching of the jaws, and grinding of the teeth. But to be honest – many adults have been grinding their teeth overnight for years even before COVID19. It’s very common if you’re concentrating at a task, doing manmual labour, or long continuous repetitive activity.

Working from Home sounds great, except…

What if you need to suddenly spend hours at a computer or laptop, in a poor ergonomic workspace? Plus dealing with partners, kids, cats and dogs all wanting your attention? This can even lead to bad sleep patterns, plus insomnia. Your body reacts to this stress by being continually “active” and ready to deal with any problems. Your muscles are preparing for action, and can fire off even when they should be relaxed. Naturally, this worsens any clenching and grinding behaviour.

Have you broken a filling or cracked a tooth from stress?

With any luck, the most straightforward way to fix this problem is a new filling. Currently in Victoria we’re under Level 3 operating restrictions. Badly broken teeth can be fixed if we can use a rubber dam to isolate your tooth. Think of it as a little rubber mask for your tooth – it helps prevent water getting into your mouth while we’re working, so it can actually make the procedure more comfortable.

Severely broken teeth may need further attention. If there’s not much tooth left, we may need to consider reconstruction using a crown (also called a cap). These are extremely strong tooth-like creations, that can usually withstand ongoing grinding.

If you’re got a painful tooth, sometimes the nerve is affected by the breakage, or by infection. In this case, we’ll carefull and thoroughly check the health of the nerve. Bad nerves usually require removal to stop ongoing pain (this is called a Root Canal Treatment), or even extraction of the whole tooth.

Jaw pains and sore teeth from grinding

Place your fingers on your temples like the photo above. Then put your palms on your jawline (think of Kevin McAllister in Home Alone!) Then very gently close until your teeth touch. Now squeeze!

Do you feel your temples (side of your head) bulging out? How about your jawline muscles?  Just like how biceps grow bigger by weightlifting, your temporalis and masseter muscles will enlarge with ongoing activity.

Clenching is the simple squeezing together of your upper and lower jaws. Grinding (bruxing) is when you clench, then move your lower jaw left to right. This often causing flattening of the edges of your front teeth. In particular the canine tooth (the “fang” tooth, or third one from the centre) can lose the naturally pointed tip. In severe cases this wear can cause the core (dentine) of the tooth to be exposed, leading to sensitivity.

At Verdant Dental (Niddrie) and Elation Dental (Croydon South), we can construct an appliance called a bruxing splint or nightguard that can help reduce further wear on your teeth from grinding in your sleep. These are not like sports mouthguards, which are soft. These appliances are rigid and hard to withstand the force of 30-40kg of jaw grinding for hours at night! Personally, I’ve been using one every night for a few decades, as I started grinding my teeth in my 20s.

Other methods to reduce stress, grinding and tooth/jaw problems

  • Take breaks throughout the day – get up and walk around every 30 minutes
  • Setup your at-home workspace comfortably
  • Stretch periodically. Try to touch the ceiling for 30 seconds, then walls to the left and right, then the floor.
  • Frequently practice breathing exercises combined with guided meditation. I do this a lot to relax my many anxious patients, and trust me, this really works! Breathe in slowly as deep as you can, counting to 7 in your head. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Then exhale slowly for a count of 7. While doing this, imagine a time you were at a relaxing place. Try and picture as much detail as you can. Imagine the colour of the beach towels around you, the shape of the umbrella over your head, and the coldness of that cocktail you’re holding.

Please call us if you have any of these problems, we are here to help!

We have two location covering the West and East of Melbourne.

Verdant Dental at 1/1 326 Keilor Road, Niddrie 3042 services nearby suburbs including Aberfeldie, Moonee Ponds, Essendon West, Tullamarine, Keilor, Gladstone Park and more! Call 9379 3736 or SMS for an appointment 0434 881 479.

Elation Dental at 111 Bayswater Road, Croydon South 3136 is a dental clinic near Kilsyth, Ringwood East, Croydon, Bayswater, Healthmont, Lilydale and the Yarra Valley. Call 9725 2029 or SMS 0402 968 183.