New York cosmetic dentist Tammy Chen, DDS quite literally made headlines when sharing details of her Central Park practice reopening with the New York Times earlier this month.
“When I reopened my practice in early June, the fractures started coming in: at least one a day, every single day that I’ve been in the office,” Dr. Chen shared. “On average, I’m seeing three to four; the bad days are six-plus fractures.”
Parallel to the the story published, dentists around the country have shared similar stories, reporting a spike in tooth fracture in patients, stemming from a very real—and relatable—reason.
“Stress and uncertainty can cause triggers in the oral systemic complex to bring on dental trauma otherwise not previously observed,” says Chevy Chase, MD cosmetic dentist Claudia Cotca, DDS, MPH.
The most common of these traumas are stress-related teeth fractures, but may also include “dry mouth, symptoms in TMD (temporo-mandibular disorders), facial-muscle tension and decreased chewing potential with increased discomfort,” adds Dr. Cotca.
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, can be caused by a number of factors, one of the most common being increased stress, which often results in fractured or chipped teeth. Additional factors that contribute to bruxism include poor alignment or even missing teeth.
However, dentists aren’t the only ones seeing increased signs of stress in their patients right now. “Psychologists and psychiatrists across the nation have been reporting at times a 30-percent increase, on average, in the use of anti-anxiety medications in their patients since the pandemic restrictions have been maintained,” explains Dr. Cotca.
If you’re unsure whether or not you’re guilty of teeth-grinding, think about how you feel first thing in the morning: If you wake up with intense headaches or soreness in the lower jaw or midface, chances are you’re grinding your teeth while you sleep.
If you believe your tooth may be fractured—or have previous untreated risks of fractures, adds Dr. Cotca—meet with your dentist. Treatment will depend on the cause of the fracture, says Dr. Cotca. “That may include triggers in the oral facial and oral systemic profile, amount and quality of produced saliva on a daily basis, bone loss, gum recession, and of course integrity of tooth structure to bond,” she says.
Once the cause is identified, Dr. Cotca notes that treatment options may include periodontal or abscess treatment, enamel and dentin fortification, porcelain and bonding procedures, occlusal guards or TMD treatment appliances.
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