Stress and isolation spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic has affected many people’s mental health, but dentists say our oral wellness is also taking a hit.
According to CNN, there has been a surge in cracked teeth in the US over the past six months, which dentists blame on pandemic-induced stress.
Dr Paul Koshgerian, an oral surgeon in San Diego, told CNN that before the pandemic, he treated about one chipped tooth per day or every other day. Recently, however, he’s seen two to five visits per day for cracked teeth. Derek Peek, another oral health professional in Iowa, told CNN that his office has already treated twice as many cracked teeth this year compared to last year, even while seeing fewer patients.
According to Dr Koshgerian, coronavirus doesn’t make teeth more fragile, but the “anxiety that surrounds everything that’s going on… has gotten everybody’s thermostat dialed up a couple notches.”
Dr Koshgerian said the surge of cracked teeth is likely caused by an increase in stress-induced bruxism, commonly known as teeth grinding. Bruxing happens when patients clench or grind their jaw, which can cause tension headaches, jaw pain, cheek damage, and cracked or broken teeth. It can also lead to poor posture — and with many people having to improvise workspaces at home, bad back support is already on doctors’ radars.
Given the nature of Covid-19, it perhaps isn’t surprising that more people have avoided going to the dentist for fear of contracting the virus, especially when widespread stay-at-home orders were in place. According to a recent Guardian Life survey cited by USA Today, only one in five adults have visited a dentist during the pandemic, even though two in five adults said they’ve experienced dental issues since March.
But doctors warn that as time goes on, dental issues usually become more dangerous and expensive. Dentists say bruxism can be treated with mouthguards, but they also tout the importance of stress management — along with, of course, daily brushing and flossing.