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Hampton Roads dentists seeing more cases of tooth fractures related to pandemic stress, anxiety

Have your teeth or jaw felt a little sore, lately? The coronavirus pandemic might have something to do with it.

SUFFOLK, Va. — Dentists here in Hampton Roads say they’re seeing more tooth fractures because of pandemic-related stress.

President-elect of the Tidewater Dental Association Dr. Dani Howell said feeling stressed-out can cause people to clench and grind their teeth, which can lead to a cracked tooth.

"Cracked teeth often come with stress, so I think pandemic anxiety is getting a lot of people. You're clenching and grinding your teeth, which can lead to fracture," Dr. Howell said.

It’s something we do unconsciously in response to stress, so if you notice it, take a moment to relax your jaw and face.

"But the problem is, a lot of times we don't notice it," Dr. Howell said.

Clenching and grinding your teeth can happen when you’re sleeping. So how do you know if you’re doing it?

"Hopefully most of the time--before you have a cracked tooth, you'll start to feel some of the symptoms," Dr. Howell said. "You'll feel a little bit of pain on biting or cold sensitivity. Those are our triggers that something is probably going on with those teeth."

Dr. Howell said not getting enough sleep, poor posture at makeshift virtual learning or work-from-home stations, and generally feeling stressed out about the pandemic all contribute to the problem.  

"Pandemic anxiety is definitely a big thing," she said. "That causes lack of sleep, working from home... Everything's a little more stressful, your posture might not be as well."

If you think you might be clenching your jaw and it’s causing problems, Dr. Howell says it’s time to talk to a dentist.

You can also buy an over-the-counter night guard that will help ease the problem while you sleep. You can find them in the dental aisle at local shops and drugstores.  

"I've just recently made myself a nightguard to wear at night when I'm sleeping because I'm noticing I am a lot busier, that stress is coming to me and I'm noticing I'm waking up in the morning with a sore jaw," Dr. Howell said.

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