Pandemic Stress Causing Dental Problems for Patients

NBC Universal, Inc.

It’s no secret people are juggling a lot of stress right now, so it makes sense but is still somehow surprising that dentists say they’re seeing a big increase lately in patients with teeth fractures and grinding issue

NBC7 spoke with two local dentists about the uptick: In Sorrento Valley, dentist Faith Barreyro -- or Dr. Faith -- told NBC 7 that in the past couple months, she's seen patients every day with fractured and chipped teeth, grinding and jaw issues.

 "We actually see some patients’ teeth breaking and fracturing," Barreyro said. "It’s just that much force they’re applying to teeth."

The cause? Barreyro said that is was most likely stress.

"It's a natural reaction, and it causes, leads to TMJ [temporomandibular joint] problems, disorders that we want to catch while it's early,” Barreyro said.

Even though she's a dentist, Barreyro is not immune -- her past problems with grinding are reemerging.

"I used to clench and grind my teeth so bad that I would put a towel between my teeth because I didn't know what a night guard was,” Barreyro said.

Barreyro said every dentist's office is experiencing the same thing: pandemic related stresses causing people real pain.

Dentist Kathrina Agatep, also in Sorrento Valley, said she has seen a 30% increase in patients with the issues.

"I’m seeing it more and more, oddly enough," Agatep said. "Yes, absolutely more patients are coming in, in pain."

The clenching and grinding can cause major posture problems, migraines and jaw disorders, Agatep said. Additional signs of clenching and grinding are gum recession and temperature sensitivity. Agatep also said that the effects are not limited to the mouth and jaw but can spread to other parts of the body.

"Your body, your muscles -- like when you’re sleeping, you’re tense," Agatep said. "Your shoulders hurt, your neck hurts."

Both dentists said it's also possible that this situation correlates to the fact that people are home more, with more time.

"People are snacking more," Barreyro said. "People are more stressed."

Patients are being urged to reduce stress level, if possible, and that a night guard, a plastic dental protector, is really important.

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