How COVID-19 Is Affecting Our Dental Health
A recent study conducted in Israel has revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic may be having an adverse effect on an unexpected area of our health - our teeth and mouth.
While not a direct result of the virus, it appears that the stress and anxiety caused by the ongoing global pandemic have resulted in an increase in oral health conditions such as teeth grinding, jaw clenching and facial pain.
The Stress of COVID: A Rise in Orofacial and Jaw Pain
The study - conducted by a team at Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel - found that during the country’s first lockdown, there was a significant rise in instances of orofacial and jaw pain, as well as jaw-clenching during the day and teeth-grinding at night, experienced by the general population.
The study found that these symptoms were more common in women than men, and were more likely to be experienced by people aged between 35 and 55.
According to the researchers, this was believed to reflect “the distress felt by the middle generation, who were cooped up at home with young children, without the usual help from grandparents, while also worrying about their elderly parents, facing financial problems and often required to work from home under trying conditions”.
The research showed that people who had suffered from symptoms of teeth grinding and jaw clenching prior to the pandemic saw a rise of around 15% in the severity of their symptoms. Overall, a rise of 10-25% was recorded in these symptoms.
The Impact of Stress on Our Oral Health
Physical symptoms such as clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth (a condition known as bruxism) are often caused by stress and anxiety, particularly emotional stress - something which is likely to have been experienced by many of us in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, stress can affect our oral health in a number of ways, including:
- Teeth grinding overnight or during the day, especially when you’re concentrating
- Jaw issues causing pain around the ears or face
- Tooth decay and gum disease caused by poor oral hygiene, particularly if you neglect your oral health
- Cold sores, which can be triggered by stress
- Oral infections or sores, which may be in the form of mouth ulcers, white lines, or white or red sports
- Decreased immune response caused by stress, which can lead to periodontal disease
What to Do If You’re Experiencing Stress-Related Oral Health Issues
If you’re finding you’re grinding your teeth, clenching your jaw, or suffering from other oral health concerns as a result of stress or anxiety, speak to your local National Dental Care Group dentist.
We can advise on a range of treatment options to help address these conditions, as well as discuss relaxation techniques to help reduce the instance of stress-related dental health problems. To make an appointment with your local practice, book online now.