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Have teeth pain? Dentists say the pandemic may be why

Stress, makeshift work stations and relaxed dental hygiene are contributing factors to an increase in dental issues.

AUSTIN, Texas — As people work from home or manage more stressors because of the coronavirus pandemic, their dental hygiene might be taking a hit.

Dentists nationwide have noted seeing an increase in dental issues since reopening their offices in recent months. Austin-based dentist Lindsey Jaros with Austin Dental Works said she also started to see it when she reopened her practice in May. 

"We have definitely seen a lot more fractured teeth, a lot more teeth where we can see crack lines in them," Jaros said. 

When people are stressed or even keep poor posture while working from home, Jaros said it can cause people to clench or grind their teeth. 

In some cases people may begin to feel jaw pain, soreness, teeth sensitivity, headaches and migraines. However, Jaros said it is possible for the issue to fly under the radar altogether.  

"It's not always painful. A lot of people don't know they are doing it until we show them a picture and talk to them to figure out what is going on at home," she said.

However, for months, patients could not get their routine checkups. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order delaying "non-essential" procedures, including dental procedures, as a precaution from the virus. Other states also took similar actions. 

The American Dental Association (ADA) pushed back against the idea that dental care was considered non-essential after the World Health Organization advised against it. 

“Oral health is integral to overall health. Dentistry is essential health care,” stated ADA President Chad P. Gehani, D.D.S. “Dentistry is essential health care because of its role in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral diseases, which can affect systemic health.” 

When Texas dentists got the green light to return to work in May, Jaros said it took time to get all her patients up to date on their routine care. 

"There is still a handful of patients who don't feel comfortable coming back in," Jaros said.

WATCH: COVID-19 pandemic may be a reason why you have tooth pain

While dentists are seeing dental issues continue to become more prevalent in their offices, Shailee Gupta with the Texas Dental Association (TDA) said there is no available data showing a change in the number of people or the severity of teeth grinding because of current life stressors.

"The prevalence of bruxism (teeth grinding) can be hard to measure. There are a few studies which discuss the prevalence of bruxism, which says that determining prevalence and change in prevalence is challenging because of its reliance on individual self-report," Gupta noted in a statement to KVUE.

Jaros listed measures people can take to maintain good dental health and to avoid an expensive dental bill for big procedures:

  • Don't slack off on daily dental care
  • Find ways to reduce stress
  • Create an ergonomic workspace 
  • If you're grinding your teeth, wear a mouthguard

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