The COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress and anxiety among Americans. Here’s how it’s affecting their dental health.
It goes without saying that people are experiencing more stress than ever before due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Either over the loss of a job, or from watching the news or a lack of clarity about the future. While stress has long been linked to overall well-being, there is also a connection to your dental health.
Dental issues can be exacerbated by stress, and others – such as tooth grinding – can be attributed to stress alone. As a result, we’ve seen an increase in the number of patients that we are seeing due to stress-related dental issues, including:
1. Tooth pain and jaw pain from tooth grinding
When a patient comes into our practice with tooth pain or jaw pain, there are a number of things that we look for. Tooth pain can be linked to a loss of enamel, nerve damage, a crack or chip in the tooth, or a painful tooth abscess. After ruling all of these out, we typically find the culprit to be pain from tooth grinding due to stress.
If you are currently experiencing tooth or jaw pain, make sure that your dentist has evidence of the cause before any treatment is administered. Many times, a well-meaning dentist will misdiagnose the problem and offer a root canal or extraction to ease the pain. When in reality, the best treatment is better stress management.
2. Chipped teeth and broken dentistry
Another stress-related dental issue we are seeing is chipped teeth or broken dentistry, which is also a result of tooth grinding. During the shutdown, many people put off repairing their chipped or broken dentistry. We are now seeing an influx of patients who are ready to treat these issues.
Keep in mind, not all chipped teeth require an emergency dental visit and most can be addressed when it’s more convenient. However, if your chipped tooth or broken dentistry is sharp to your tongue, unsightly or inconvenient, we can address the issue now. Oftentimes these issues can be repaired with bonding, or in more severe cases with a crown.
3. Crowns that become loose or come off
Another casualty to tooth grinding is crowns that either fall off or become loose. This happens as the natural teeth experience wear and cause the crown’s cement seal to break. Typically, a patient will find the crown in their mouth when eating and begin to panic. However, this is not cause for panic.
As long as the issue is addressed within a few days, the patient will not experience any long-term damage to the tooth. The biggest issue with a crown coming off is tooth sensitivity, which can be alleviated by avoiding the tooth when chewing.
4. A sudden increase in cavities
As patients begin to come back for regular dental cleanings, I’m seeing more people with an increase in cavity activity. This has become more common as people miss dental cleanings and turn to sugary foods for comfort during the pandemic. However, keep in mind that the people getting more cavities are likely already prone to cavities.
To treat the problem, I recommend that patients get back on a regular cleaning schedule and become more diligent with brushing and flossing. While it’s not possible to reverse cavities after they have compromised the enamel, you can stop them in their tracks with good habits. CariFree CTx4 Gel Anti-Cavity Toothpaste is also a great product for anyone who is prone to cavities.
5. Larger tooth infections than normal
For patients coming in with severe tooth pain, I am also seeing an increase in tooth infections related to a tooth abscess. With stress and anxiety high, and poor stress management techniques, many people have a compromised immune system that has left their body more vulnerable to infection.
The shutdown, which impacted dental offices, also left people with nowhere to turn when their tooth pain worsened. Some even visited the emergency room to address their pain, where doctors were unsure how to treat the dental problem.
If you are experiencing severe tooth pain, do not wait to make a dental appointment. Our office is welcoming new patients who need dental care to address issues that have popped up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While we cannot control the external stresses that are prevalent in the world today, proper stress management techniques will go a long way in improving your dental health. If you’re experiencing any of the above dental issues, contact our dentist office today to set up an appointment.