The global pandemic has undeniably affected all of us in many ways. Whether it has forced us to adapt to remote learning and working, social isolation, adjust to travel restrictions and keep up with the ever-changing covid rules, we have all been through one of longest lockdowns globally. As dental clinicians we have seen first-hand the oral and dental consequences of this pandemic. Unfortunately, there were many restrictions placed on the dental sector as part of Victoria’s state of emergency which initially only allowed for treatment of emergency or urgent cases. This resulted in many patients missing their routine check-up and clean appointments which are essential for the prevention of gum disease, dental decay, screening and diagnosing oral cancer and other anomalies.
Moreover, due to the volatile environment brought on the by the pandemic, financial stress, emotional stress, mental exhaustion, and general anxiety was felt by all members of the society. One of the oral manifestations of stress and anxiety is clenching and grinding which can occur both during the day and at night during sleep.
The terms ‘bruxism’ or ‘TMD’ are commonly mentioned and associated with clenching and grinding. But what do they mean?
- Bruxism: repetitive jaw-muscle activity characterized by clenching or grinding of the teeth
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD): Disorder of the jaw joint and associated muscles resulting in pain and tenderness
Dental effects of clenching and grinding:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Fracture of teeth or restorations
- Formation of wear facets on teeth
- Jaw or muscular pain
- Cheek biting
- Clicking of the jaw joint
In such circumstances your dentist may recommend a number of therapeutic options one of which may be a custom-made appliance called a splint or a night guard worn throughout night to protect your teeth from further wear and damage. It acts as a cushioning layer between the top and bottom teeth and allows the jaw joint to relax, thus helping to improve the symptoms of bruxism.
As dental practitioners one of our main goals is prevention and early diagnosis and treatment of dental disease including decay and gum disease. This highlights the importance of regular dental check-ups which unfortunately many patients missed out on due to the pressures of the pandemic. This has resulted in the need for more complex procedures, as an example, a small decay lesion can be restored with a simple filling procedure, however if more time passes and the bacteria progress further within the tooth and reach the nerve the tooth may require root canal treatment or even extraction.
The impact of covid-19 on dental health and dentistry in general is undeniable, fortunately we have been able to support our patients during these tough times and continue to strive to provide the highest quality of dental care.