The Surprising Impact of COVID-19 on Your Teeth

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It’s no secret that 2020 has been an incredibly difficult and turbulent year, affecting the entire world in a wide variety of ways.

With so many businesses in Australia (and beyond) being forced to close their doors or significantly reduce their operations, you might assume that dental practices have also been struggling to stay afloat after having to temporarily cease treating patients (apart from emergencies) during the first Coronavirus lockdown.

In total contrast, the past few months have been the busiest we’ve experienced with no signs of slowing down. Not only this, but we’ve also noticed a trend – more and more patients are coming to us with broken or cracked teeth than ever before. 

But why?

There are three main reasons that more patients are suffering from fractured teeth since the Coronavirus pandemic began, these being:

  • Stress
  • Working from home
  • Poor sleep

 

Luckily, once you can identify how these issues are affecting your teeth, we’ve got some suggestions below that you can easily implement to prevent further damage.

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Stress

The uncertainty, pressure and fear experienced by so many people during the pandemic has emphasised the impact of COVID-19 on everyone’s mental health, with stress levels becoming understandably higher than ever before. Stress can lead to us grinding and clenching our teeth, which can cause damage to the tooth in the form of cracks, chips or fractures.

What you can do: Mindfulness meditation is a great way to relieve stress, as well as practicing yoga. Being physically active each day in some way is an effective way to boost your mental health, even if it’s as simple as a walk on your lunch break. Speaking to your family and friends about how you’re feeling can also make you feel much better by sharing, and realising that others may be feeling the exact same way.

If there are specific activities or situations that you know increase your stress, try to avoid or reduce them when possible, or get a hand from someone else who can help you complete them.

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Working from home

On June 29th 2020, research from Roy Morgan announced that over 4.3 million people (32% of working Australians) had been working from home (“WFH”) during the several months prior as a result of the shutdown of the economy due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

For the majority of employees, working from home has been a completely new experience which they hadn’t been prepared for, both mentally but more importantly, in terms of their home office setup. Many of us have had to create a home office with less-than-ideal resources, setting up laptops at the kitchen table or even on the lounge where we hunch over for 8 hours. 

Improper posture throughout the day can actually lead to TMJ disorder (TMD) and teeth grinding at night. This is the case when adopting a posture where the head is held forward past the shoulders, as it puts strain on the muscles and joints in the back of the neck and upper trapezius. These muscles are closely connected with the jaw muscles and impact on their function, which is why they can lead to clenching, jaw pain and eventually broken teeth.

What you can do: Firstly, try to be aware of your posture when working from home. Attempt to create a home office where your screen is at eye level, even if this means elevating your screen with boxes or books. Make sure your shoulders are over your hips, and your ears are aligned with your shoulders. Alternate between sitting and standing, and take frequent short breaks throughout the day to get moving, like going to get a drink or check the mail. Incorporate stretches and movement exercises regularly to stretch and strengthen your muscles. Seeking out professional help where possible by being assessed by a physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor can also be helpful for long term improvements.

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Poor sleep

Many of us suffer from poor sleep at the best of times, but with the increased stress of the pandemic, insomnia and restlessness at bedtime has made it increasingly common. When we become stressed, our sympathetic nervous system becomes more activated, which triggers the body’s “flight or fight” response. This state of arousal can make it difficult to wind down at night, and causes physical tension throughout the body, including clenching of the jaw. 

What you can do: Set aside time before bed to properly switch off. Take a bath and turn off your phone and other screens for an hour before bed. Deep breathing for a few minutes before you sleep helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which counteracts the “fight or flight” response by slowing your heart rate and reducing blood pressure, which improves the ability to have a quality sleep. If your body is more relaxed while you sleep, your muscles (including your jaw) will be less tense when you wake up and there’ll be a reduction in grinding. 

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Most importantly, to reduce your teeth grinding it’s important to become more aware. Most people don’t realise they actually grind their teeth until it’s pointed out. If your teeth are touching right now, that’s an indication that you’re causing some damage, as your teeth actually aren’t supposed to touch aside from when you’re chewing or talking. When the mouth is relaxed, there should be a small space between your top and bottom teeth when your lips are together. Whenever you notice your teeth are touching, actively try to unclench them.

If you’ve previously had orthodontic treatment such as Invisalign and have a retainer, or a night guard to prevent grinding at night, try wearing these during the day. This will protect your teeth by creating a barrier between them.

Preventing your teeth from grinding will have a big impact on your oral health down the track. The tiny imperfections and cracks in your teeth from everyday wear and tear can become much bigger over time with continuous pressure and trauma, which can lead to further treatment such as a crownveneers or a root canal being necessary. Prevention is therefore your best bet to save yourself pain, money and stress in future.

Oasis Dental Studio is here to help! To keep an eye on the strength of your teeth and to catch teeth grinding early, it’s important to visit your dentist regularly for your 6-month checkup and clean. We can also create you a custom night guard to reduce the impact of teeth grinding, and keep your teeth in their best shape for the remainder of 2020 and beyond!

Please feel free to book an appointment online with our Gold Coast dentists or find out more about teeth grinding and night guards by giving our friendly team a call:

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