Why More People Are Showing Up to the Dentist With Cracked Teeth This Year
COVID has come for our molars
According to a recent piece in The New York Times by Dr. Tammy Chen, the owner of Central Park Dental Aesthetics, tooth fractures have been on the rise since early June. She’s seen at least one a day, every single day, since the beginning of the summer; and at one point, she even reported “more in the last six weeks than in the previous six years.”
Dr. Chen attributes the epidemic — which has kept her busy after months of closure due to the pandemic — to a nationwide uptick in “bruxism,” also known as teeth grinding or jaw clenching. She identifies two main culprits for the surge, one that seems kind of obvious and another that may surprise you: A) stress/lack of sleep and B) poor posture. On the former, COVID has ushered in an era of near constant anxiety, which doesn’t go away while we sleep. (The Google search term “why am I having weird dreams” quadrupled in mid-April.) We’re tense all day long, constantly bracing for bad news or battle, and we’re clenching our teeth along the way.
For the latter, most home workplace stations (and all human bodies) are not equipped for eight hours of hunching over a screen. The jawbone is actually connected to your neck and shoulder muscles via something called the temporomandibular joint. Without office ergonomics to count on anymore, this whole operation is at the mercy of your personal posture. It’s an odd thought, but sitting on a soft couch can legitimately lead to cracks in your teeth.
What can you do? For starters, set up a work station that is ready for possibly many more months of WFH. We’ve assembled some great desk options for you here. Then, when you sit at it, think of “stacking” your body vertically: feet planted on the floor, spine and neck up, shoulders back. Exercise physiologists like to preach “alligator arms,” which means keeping your arms short and tucked against your body as you type. Purchasing a stand for your computer will make this easier — and keep the screen eye-level. That should all ease the stress on your temporomandibular joint, and on your teeth as a whole.
At other points of the day, though, especially when it’s winding to a close, make sure to keep some space between your teeth. Check in to see if you’re clenching — most people do it unintentionally — and take some deep breaths. Train yourself (every part of yourself) to relax before bed. It’s normal to be stressed in 2020; you’d probably have something wrong with you if you weren’t. Just remind yourself that pushing your teeth together won’t solve your problems. It’ll only create new ones.
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