Teeth grinding on the rise

Teeth grinding can happen when you're sleeping.

By Melissa Grant

Do you grind your teeth?

An increasing number of Victorians are suffering problems arising from teeth grinding – including broken teeth – since the beginning of the Covid pandemic.

Stress is among the reasons for teeth grinding, and lockdowns and restrictions have caused stress for many across the state over the past two years.

Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch (ADAVB) president Dr Jeremy Sternson says the number of patients grinding their teeth has “easily” increased by 30 to 50 per cent.

“Grinding and consequences of grinding have increased since the pandemic,” he explained.

“One of the major causes of grinding is stress and a considerable amount of our patients have experienced a lot of stress in the past two years.”

Teeth grinding is a repetitive jaw-muscle activity that involves clenching or grinding of the teeth or thrusting of the jaw. It can happen when we are awake or sleeping.

So, how do you know if you have been grinding your teeth? You may notice that you have worn down or shorter teeth, chipped and cracked teeth, or pain and tenderness in the facial and neck muscles in the morning.

If you have a significant other they may notice grinding noises during the night.

Dr Sternson says there has been a dramatic increase in the number of patients at his practice who have cracked teeth from grinding.

“Cracked tooth syndrome has always been steady in the practice, but it seems nearly every toothache that has come through the doors in the pandemic has been that,” he said.

Compounding the problem is the fact that dentists have been off limits at times during the pandemic, and now more people are fearful of seeing their dentist.

“They are too scared to come into the dentistry or leave their houses for fear of catching Covid,” Dr Sternson said.

“Preventative care has gone out the window.

“People who I used to see every three or six months haven’t been in for two years.”

Dr Sternson says most patients presenting with teeth grinding problems are aged in their 20s and 30s.

Children also grind their teeth but usually when they are losing their baby teeth or their mouths are growing.

When it comes to teeth grinding, Dr Sternson says it is important to identify the cause of the problem. So if it is stress, you will need to look at ways to reduce the stress you are experiencing.

He says heatpacks on the face and putting your hand under your chin while yawning also helps.

If the problem persists, you can have a custom mouthguard made to wear at night.

Early treatment is important, so contact your dentist if teeth grinding is a problem.