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Milwaukee Dentist Says Stress From The Pandemic Has Lead To Teeth Grinding & Jaw Clenching

Increased stress can lead to jaw clenching and teeth grinding, which increase the likelyhood of chipping or fracturing a tooth.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused new amounts of stress for everyone. That stress can lead to unhealthy sleeping habits, low energy and an increase in migraines and headaches. Another consequence of the pandemic, according to Dr. Yasser Khaled, is an increase in trips to the dentist.

Khaled is an assistant professor at the Marquette School of Dentistry and he says their practice has seen an increase in patients since the pandemic began.

Khaled says that stress can cause two major issues in the mouth — grinding and jaw clenching.

“Any patients who are really stressed, we can definitely see these signs of grinding and clenching … on their tongue, on their teeth,” he says.

Both of these contribute to chipping or fracturing of teeth, but Khaled says there are ways to manage grinding and clenching. Tools like night guards can be used to minimize the effects while sleeping or overly stressed, and for patients who need additional help, the School of Dentistry has partnered with the Marquette Physical Therapy Clinic.

“We basically see patients together and treat them for all those grinding and clenching habits,” he explains.

He also points to an increase in caffeine consumption to deal with stress as an issue because it only makes dental problems worse.

“When you get more stressed, you tend to drink more caffeine and this actually takes you into a vicious cycle of making it much worse, so that’s why we try to say, I’m not saying you should completely avoid the caffeine but try to limit the number of coffee or tea cups per day,” he says.

Patients have also reported being worried about going to the dentist during the pandemic. As everyone continues to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, going to an appointment where someone has to look inside your mouth may feel uncomfortable.

But Khaled says it’s safe. “I can proudly say we’ve been working since last May until now and we have not had any single case of COVID transfer inside the School of Dentistry,” he says.

Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.