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One More Thing to Blame on COVID: Your Teeth

Dentist says stress from virus is causing people to clench, grind teeth, leading to fractures
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2020 8:59 AM CDT

(Newser) – Plenty of odd COVID-19 symptoms have cropped up, but one condition is now being documented in the dentist's chair—and it's not a symptom of the illness, but an apparent result of being stressed out by it. Writing in the New York Times, prosthodontist Tammy Chen details the "epidemic of cracked teeth" she's been seeing, a phenomenon she attributes to excessive teeth clenching and grinding caused by the coronavirus tension we're all feeling. Chen explains that because teeth are brittle and already have tiny fissures from everyday wear and tear, all they need is slightly more pressure to lead to a full-blown crack. She blames two things specifically for upping bruxism cases. First, people at makeshift home workstations end up sitting with bad posture, and because neck and shoulder muscles connect to and affect the jawbone, that can eventually lead to grinding.

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Second, a lack of sleep spurred by COVID-19 stress puts us in a constant "fight or flight" mode. "All that tension goes straight to the teeth," Chen writes. Per Insider, her piece has struck a chord. "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," one sufferer comments. Don't think you're at risk? Chen instructs you to see if your teeth are touching right at this moment—something that shouldn't happen unless you're eating. Tips she offers to make sure you don't end up in her office include wearing a mouthguard at night, making sure your workspace is ergonomically correct, and doing deep breathing before bed. "The more relaxed your body, the more likely you are to wake up with less tension in the jaw," she writes. "That means less grinding at night." More here, including her "wiggle like a fish" tip. (Read more dentists stories.)

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