By now, it’s hardly a news flash that the coronavirus pandemic has raised stress levels for nearly everyone. People are well-aware of the heightened anxiety in their lives, and new research shows this stress does not abate when we close our eyes at night.
Dentists are reporting a surge in excessive teeth-grinding and jaw-clenching since the pandemic began. A recent study by researchers at Tel Aviv University, published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, is among the first to examine this troubling trend.
The researchers surveyed 1,800 people in Israel and Poland about the presence and worsening of these symptoms during the COVID-19 lockdowns. They found a significant rise from the pre-pandemic period, with teeth-grinding at night going from 10% to 36%, and jaw-clenching rising from 17% to 32%.
Women reported these concerns more than men, with 35- to 55-year-olds suffering the most. Members of this so-called middle generation, especially mothers at home with young children, not only don’t have help from grandparents, they also are worried about their elderly parents as well as other anxieties brought on by the virus.
Dentists in the U.S. also report rising levels of chronic teeth-grinding, which wears down enamel, the outermost protective layer of the tooth. This can cause teeth to fracture or to be lost, or even cause muscles around the jaw to ache.
Mouthguards, occlusal splints, even Botox injections can help, but the best advice may be to find ways to lessen the stressors in your life. Mediation, yoga, exercise and simply talking to family and friends can lighten the load. It might even help your mind, and your jaw, relax at night.