Healthy Living: Dental issues like clenching on the rise, what to do about it


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We know that stress is at an all-time high for most of us amid this pandemic. That added stress could have big impacts on our teeth. 

New research released by the American Dental Association shows the majority of dentists are seeing an increase in stress-related oral health conditions among patients. These issues include chipped and cracked teeth, TMD symptoms and Bruxism-- a condition that includes clenching and grinding. 

Dr. Crispen Simmons is a dentist who specializes in TMJ and orthodontics at his local practice. He says the issues we are seeing are obviously related to stress and that puts extra force on our teeth and can cause them to fracture or break.

"We try to mask it as best we can but it’s still, every day is a problem of some sort, and stress psychosocial issues certainly play a part.” 

The go-to when people have issues is usually a night guard, but Dr. Simmons says night guards just act as a band air to a deeper underlying problem, “Night guards often help to protect the teeth, and they’re commonly made but they’re frequently not necessary and don’t even really resolve the problem, they just keep you from interfacing your teeth directly, and sort of sanding them off if you will, but they don’t solve any of the fundamental factors that could be involved.” 

While a nightguard may prevent you from further grinding, Dr. Simmons says to be careful because a night guard might actually create more issues like jaw pain, headaches, and neck and back issues. 

“Your bite is changing your posture, when they put a night guard in, it introduces a change in your bite, which requires you to change the posture of your head and when you change the posture of your head to accommodate that, it changes the strain on your cervical vertebra and muscles.” 

Dr. Simmons says underlying structural-developmental problems actually create an environment that is ideal for clenching and grinding problems and these issues begin when we are very young. 

"If a child has lips apart while they’re just sitting around, walking around they have a problem. They can’t breathe through their nose, and if they can’t breathe through their nose, this is not gonna develop properly. If this doesn’t develop properly, the upper jaw and the lower jaw as well are not gonna develop properly.” 

Dr. Simmons says unfortunately these aren't really issues we can fix ourselves and often happen in our sleep. He says you should seek treatment as soon as you notice a problem. 

There are some things Dr. Simmons says we can do to decrease behaviors like clenching our teeth while in traffic, “Often just by training and being self-aware, you can catch yourself and you know in your mind what those situations are, and you become self-aware and you go, oh I just have to relax, I just have to relax.” 

Dr. Simmons says meditation has been really beneficial for some of his patients, as it helps us to relax and regain control. We also want to be sure to have good posture throughout the day as an aligned spine and a jaw that is relaxed are some keys to avoid clenching.

According to the ADA more than a quarter of dentists are also seeing increases in periodontal disease, so cutting back on refined sugars is also a good idea.


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