Pandemic-related stress causing teeth problems, dentists say

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WESTLAKE, Ohio (WJW) — For Khristian Burgwald of Elyria, a walk along Lake Erie helps him
cope during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I hear that white noise and get that smell, it’s just instant calming to me. It’s been my place of peace,” said Burgwald.

But Burgwald also deals with the pandemic in a different way.

“It was probably back in June that I had severe jaw pain,” said Burgwald.

Burgwald thought it was a cavity so he went to see the dentist.

“He says, ‘you popped a filling loose.  And I can almost guarantee it’s from grinding,” said Burgwald.

 Burgwald says he didn’t even realize he was grinding his teeth in his sleep.

“I’d say we’ve seen double the cases of people chipping, grinding, wear, or pain due to stress from the pandemic,” said Dr. Chrys Constantinou with Westlake Dental Associates in Westlake.

In fact, a recent American Dental Association study discovered that almost 60 percent of dentists nationwide are recording teeth grinding and clenching, chipped and cracked teeth.

Constantinou says teeth are taking a direct hit from pandemic-related stress, which can lead to bigger problems down the road.

“One of the major muscles attaches here at the joint and fans out towards the top of your scalp.  You could feel pain all the way up and down your head,” said Constantinou.

 That pain can spread to your neck and shoulders.

 Dr. Constantinou says it’s not just older people who are grinding their teeth.

“In this pandemic, you also have children experiencing things they’ve never experienced.  A lot of parents are telling me they can hear their kids grinding their teeth.  While that can be normal, it’s
definitely been happening more,” said Constantinou.

The good news? Dr. Constantinou says it’s fixable.

 “Start with yoga, meditation prayer, anything that can make you calmer especially at night when you aren’t aware of grinding,” said Constantinou.

So, what about at night?  That’s not easy to catch. Constantinou recommends a night-guard and maybe a partner alerting you to the grinding in order to correct it.

Burgwald says his wife is a big help, along with a chiropractor, and a masseuse.

“She hears it at night sometimes, if I’m not wearing my mouthguard she hears that grinding,” said Burgwald.

His teeth are a cautionary tale to anyone putting off dental care in the pandemic, especially to people with jaw pain, even headaches.

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