pandemic stress increases sleep tooth disorders

The pandemic has led to an increase in various psychological, social and economic hardships: stress from remote work, smart-working without breaks, anxiety about losing your job, loss of employment, anxiety about social distancing which implies a detachment from family and friends and many other critical conditions. Many people tend to somatize discomfort and stress in the oral cavity with activities such as bruxism or teeth clenching.

“In a situation of anxiety, blood circulation increases in the areas of the brain that govern instinctive reactions and the activation system of the sleep-wake rhythm – explains Dr. Giuseppe Cicero, periodontist from Rome and Professor of Dentistry at the European University of Madrid – This is to bring us into a condition of physical and mental struggle and defense. Bruxism can be considered as a symptom of this process ».

In this period of pandemic this association between anxiety and bruxism is even more denoted, which shows us how psycho-socio-economic factors can impact on oral health. Not surprisingly, Cicero points out, in 2020 there was a boom in clicks in Google searches for key terms such as “bruxism” and “grinding the teeth”, with significant increases compared to 2019. This problem, linked to stress and pandemic , is therefore very current. In particular, the increase in some geographic areas is noticeable. In the last 5 months of 2020, the word “bruxism” had a surge in Google searches by 62% in Calabria, 48% in the Marche, 34% in Sicily and Sardinia. The search for the expression “grind your teeth”, again in the last 5 months of last year, increased by 68% in Lazio and by 60% in Sicily. Eloquent data that demonstrate the reality of the phenomenon.

Bruxism: causes and characteristics

Bruxism is the involuntary act of clenching and grinding the teeth while sleeping. It is a very widespread disorder and can manifest itself in various forms, more or less mild, and depends on the involuntary contraction of the chewing muscles. The main cause of bruxism can be linked to a particular moment of stress or to a state of anxiety, but the same problem can also be caused by a malocclusion or bad positioning of the dental arches.

«It is important to recognize the symptoms for a quick diagnosis – emphasizes Cicero – usually, you wake up in the morning with a strong feeling of discomfort in the mouth: the jaws are sore, the teeth hurt. If at first glance one can hypothesize a caries, often these are the very symptoms of an incipient bruxism. It should be borne in mind that under normal conditions the teeth should only touch each other when chewing or swallowing; this would therefore mean that the teeth come into contact with each other no more than half an hour a day. In the most severe cases of bruxism, however, the teeth are able to stay in contact for up to 8-10 hours a day. In terms of tooth consumption, a month with an advanced form of bruxism is equivalent to more than a year for an individual without the disorder “.

“It is very important to recognize these symptoms early and remedy them as soon as possible – explains the prof. Piero Cascone, head of maxillofacial surgery at the Policlinico Umberto I – It must be taken into account that bruxism can also occur at a very young age. The goal of the therapies is to prevent the functional overload of the structures that allow the mandibular movements to create irreversible damage. Too often I find myself having to make late diagnoses and having to reconstruct temporomandibular joints that are now severely compromised by long periods of functional stress. The symptoms to recognize them early are simple; the therapies are not invasive and, if correctly set, can also be self-managed. When, on the other hand, there are limitations on opening the mouth, noises of joint crackling and head and neck pain, then it is necessary to consult a specialist and, if necessary, a maxillofacial surgeon “.

The consequences of bruxism

Bruxism not only accelerates the process of dental deterioration, but also reflects its negative consequences on the musculoskeletal system, causing headaches and numerous other pathologies. In the long run, it can also cause serious consequences, such as deterioration of the tooth surface up to fractures, pain in the jaw, tooth sensitivity, migraine, and, in patients with more severe periodontitis, increased tooth mobility.

«Clenching the jaws or grinding the teeth causes damage to our organism – highlights Cicero – First of all, the teeth wear out. And if the problem lasts a long time because it is neglected or unidentified, the teeth and the temporomandibular joints are damaged; The connected muscles are also affected, subjected to dangerous overexertion. What follows is poured out on the whole organism: unjustified headache; ear pain; feeling of having one or both ears plugged; dizziness; difficulty swallowing; difficulty opening the mouth fully; teeth more sensitive than usual to heat and cold; pain in the cervical spine. In periodontal patients who are more susceptible to stress and occlusal load caused by bruxism, the mobility of the teeth must also be kept under control, as this can drastically increase up to tooth loss. For patients who have lost more than 30% of periodontal support and who also suffer from bruxism, it is not enough to go to the hygienist every 4-6 months: instead, multidisciplinary treatment and a specific consultation with a periodontist is necessary to slow down the progression of the periodontal disease and to identify the causes of bruxism, with the ultimate aim of intervening on both fronts “.

Source: RSS Salute by

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