Sleeping is supposed to be a relaxing and restorative time—so why are you waking up with a sore jaw and a headache?

It could be due to bruxism, which is also known as teeth grinding. If you’ve been grinding your teeth for a while, you may even notice cracks or chips. 

Over the past year, many dentists have noticed an increase in patients who grind their teeth. But what is causing this phenomenon, and could it be related to COVID-19?

Why Do People Grind Their Teeth?

What’s the relationship between a global pandemic and incidents of people grinding their teeth? First, we need to understand why people grind their teeth. Common reasons include:

  • An abnormal bite
  • Medications
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stress

Studies have identified that there is a relationship between bruxism and stress levels. As the pandemic affected more aspects of Canadian’s lives, their amount of stress increased, and so did the prevalence of bruxism.

A pandemic is undoubtedly a highly stressful event. For those who have lost their jobs, family members, or are vulnerable to complications, COVID-19 is a constant source of anxiety. 

It’s not that contracting the virus causes bruxism. Instead, it’s the stress of living through a pandemic that makes people grind their teeth.

Stress Reduction Techniques

We can’t exactly stop the pandemic, although social distancing measures and vaccines are a great help. On our own, all we can do is try to deal with stress in healthy ways. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Practice yoga and meditation. Moving our bodies in a gentle and relaxing way can help us cope with stress. Deep breathing exercises allow us to root ourselves in the present moment rather than focusing on stressful events beyond our control.
  • Reduce your intake of harmful substances. Canadians are reportedly drinking more alcohol since the pandemic. The use of substances like alcohol and tobacco may provide temporary relief, but they might also create additional stress down the line. Consider cutting back on substance use to relieve stress.
  • Set hourly alerts on your phone. There’s not much we can do about grinding our teeth at night, other than wearing a mouthguard—we’re unconscious, so we can’t exactly catch ourselves in the act! During the day, however, you can try your best to keep your jaw relaxed. Set a timer to go off each hour. Whenever you hear the alert, you’ll be reminded to release your jaw, relax your tongue, and make sure your teeth aren’t touching.

How To Protect Your Teeth

Even if you actively try to manage your stress, we all experience certain life events that are beyond our control. Teeth grinding causes fractured, chipped, and cracked teeth. This leads to expensive issues; you may need to replace a crown or a tooth altogether.

A night guard can help you manage bruxism. It creates space between your teeth and prevents them from being damaged by grinding. By wearing a night guard, you can sleep deeply at night instead of waking up with a headache.

Looking for a dental office in Charleswood? Call WestSide Dental! We’re committed to helping our patients improve their oral health. Contact us today to discuss your options for alleviating the pain of bruxism.