You May Be Ruining Your Teeth Without Even Realizing It, Dentist Warns
The pandemic might have given you something new to worry about.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of illness, a lot of change, and a lot of stress into most people's lives. But it may have also given us another thing to worry about: our teeth. According to one dentist, the coronavirus pandemic is the reason why many people can't stop grinding their teeth right now.
Tammy Chen, DDS, a dentist based in New York City, wrote an article for The New York Times in which she said she has seen at least one tooth fracture every single day since she reopened her practice in early June. On average, she sees around three to four fractures daily—with the worst days giving her at least six patients with fractures.
Chen says she has "seen more tooth fractures in the last six weeks than in the previous six years."
But why? According to Chen, one of the most obvious answers is stress. The pandemic has created stress for many people in different ways, and unfortunately, that stress "leads to clenching and grinding, which can damage the teeth," Chen explains.
"Teeth are naturally brittle, and everyone has tiny fissures in their teeth from chewing, grinding and everyday use," she says. "They can take only so much trauma before they eventually break."
Stress isn't the only answer, however. Chen says it also has to do with an "unprecedented number" of people working from home during the pandemic. People are transforming their living areas into makeshift workstations which, more often than not, puts them into abnormal body positions.
"The awkward body positions that ensue can cause us to hunch our shoulders forward, curving the spine into something resembling a C-shape," Chen notes. "Nerves in your neck and shoulder muscles lead into the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, which connects the jawbone to the skull. Poor posture during the day can translate into a grinding problem at night."
To fix this problem, Chen advises that people set up a proper work station, especially given that many people will continue to work from home. She says that "when seated, your shoulders should be over your hips, and your ears should be over your shoulders." Your computer screens also need to be at eye level, and you can prop up your screen on a box or stack of books if you need to adjust.
Unfortunately, Chen says the problem of teeth grinding is only exacerbated by the fact that many people are unaware that they may be clenching and grinding their teeth. She says she has had many patients come into her office complaining of pain and sensitivity but claiming they don't grind their teeth, even when she can see the evidence.
Chen says you need to be aware of how your teeth are sitting. If they're currently touching, that's probably a "sure sign" you're doing some damage to your teeth.
"Your teeth shouldn't actually touch throughout the day at all unless you're actively eating and chewing your food," she explains. "Instead, your jaw should be relaxed, with a bit of space between the teeth when the lips are closed." And for more health issues you may need to take care of, discover The No. 1 Sign You're Not As Healthy As You Think You Are, Studies Show.