The pandemic is causing a huge array of health problems and not just to those who have come into contact with COVID-19. One of the side effects of the pandemic is an increase in stress levels. When the body becomes stressed it can result in headaches, mood changes, heartburn, sleep problems, higher risk of heart attack, fertility problems, weakened immune system, high blood pressure, and lastly bruxism. Bruxism is clenching or grinding your teeth, usually when you sleep at night. Unfortunately, bruxism can lead to painful symptoms and serious oral health consequences.

At Smile On Dental Studio, we can help patients treat bruxism in Clayton, MO, and relieve the painful symptoms it causes.  

woman sits at her computer stressed out

Symptoms of Bruxism

Most people aren’t aware they are grinding or clenching their teeth at night until their dentist brings it up during an appointment. However, there are many symptoms of bruxism you can watch out for. The sooner you recognize the symptoms, the sooner you can seek treatment and experience pain relief.

Watch out for these symptoms: 

  • Frequent headaches 
  • Earaches  
  • Facial pain 
  • Pain and stiffness in the jaw and surrounding muscles 
  • Disrupted sleep 
  • Worn teeth 
  • Teeth sensitivity 
  • Broken fillings or teeth 
  • Receding gums 
  • Your partner hears you grinding or clenching 

If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, we urge you to schedule a visit with Dr. Hill as soon as possible. 

Causes of Bruxism and How COVID-19 Comes Into Play

A number of factors can cause bruxism but the most significant risk factor is stress. During the day when someone encounters a stressful situation, their teeth automatically clench as a natural reaction. During the night, this daytime habit can carry over. Considering that stress is one of the leading risk factors of bruxism, it’s no wonder why COVID-19 is causing more people to clench or grind their teeth.

Dentists across the US have reported a higher number of patients coming in complaining of jaw pain or experiencing cracked or worn teeth. People are experiencing a new way of life, struggling to work and help their children with school at home, and ultimately have had their lives flipped upside down. The stress of the pandemic is unfortunately being taken out on people’s teeth.

Other causes of bruxism include obstructive sleep apnea, smoking cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, depression, and snoring. 

Consequences of Untreated Bruxism

If you brush off bruxism like it’s no big deal, you might be in for some big trouble down the line. One of the first consequences of not treating your bruxism is damage to your teeth. Teeth can become sensitive, eroded, and experience broken fillings, and cracks. Without treatment, these problems will only grow worse and put your dental health at risk. If you have dental crowns, implants, or porcelain veneers, these can also become damaged.

Clenching and grinding your teeth can also lead to a TMJ disorder. When you continue to put immense pressure on the TM joints night after night from clenching and grinding, it can cause severe pain, clicking or popping noises, make chewing difficult, and even cause lockjaw. TMJ disorders can also cause frequent headaches and migraines.

Lastly, bruxism can disrupt your sleeping partner. The noises can be bothersome and make it difficult for your partner to fall asleep or stay asleep. 

Bruxism and TMJ Treatment in Clayton, MO

If you suspect that you’re suffering from bruxism, the first step is to visit Smile On Dental Studio for a consultation with Dr. Hill. During your consultation, he will examine your teeth and take x-rays to see how much damage has occurred to your teeth like cracks or chips. He will also use a wide range of advanced dental technology to diagnose TMJ and to get a better picture of what’s going on.

Next, Dr. Hill will determine how severe your case is and then prescribe your treatment from there. Some patients may only need to wear a night guard at night to protect their teeth. Other patients might need to wear an oral appliance or orthotic in addition to reconstructive dentistry or orthodontics. Lastly, patients might need new dental fillings, a root canal, or even a dental crown to fix the damage caused by bruxism.

Usually, after wearing the oral appliance, bite splint, or night guard patients notice an improvement in their symptoms. In just a few months you might feel symptom-free altogether.

In addition to our bruxism and TMJ treatment, we recommend patients help control their stress levels. This can be as simple as taking daily walks, meditating, journaling, or practicing yoga. The less stress you have, the less likely you will grind or clench your teeth at night.

If you think you’ve been clenching or grinding your teeth at night and would like to experience relief, please contact Smile On Dental Studio at (314) 678-7876 today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hill.