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It’s been a long, hard pandemic, and your muscles, your brain, and your tolerance for Zoom small talk have taken a toll. You can add teeth to that list. Many people are taking their COVID-19 stress out on their chompers, a dentist wrote in the New York Times.
Dr. Tammy Chen D.D.S., the author of the Times piece, says that strain and exhaustion can show up in our mouths. As a result, the amount of tooth cracks and fractures sustained during the pandemic has skyrocketed.
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For one, Dr. Chen says, stress makes you grind your teeth. Bruxism, the technical term, can wear down molars and incisors over time. And in fact, your teeth shouldn't touch at all except when you're chewing or swallowing, Dr. Chen wrote.
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Up to 8% of adults in America grind their teeth in their sleep, per the Sleep Foundation, and that number’s likely gone up during the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2016 study found that bruxism is related to mini-arousals, or tiny wake-ups, during sleep, which are more common when you're not sleeping well.
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Increased anxiety can also hurt your teeth, Dr. Chen says. The higher your anxiety, the more likely you are to experience the ‘fight or flight’ response, which tenses your muscles. Cue grinding like you're at prom again.
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SSRIs that increase serotonin levels in the brain can make you more likely to move your jaw and grind your teeth in your sleep. It’s most common with fluoxetine, sertraline, and venlafaxine, according to a 2018 review of studies.