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Dr Jonas discusses an increase in tooth grinding on ABC News online

22 November 2021
ABC News Online

ADA NSW President Dr Michael Jonas explains the effects of tooth grinding on patients anxious about COVID-19 in this ABC News online piece.

If you've started grinding your teeth lately, you are not alone.

Key points:

  • The number of people grinding their teeth has increased in the past two years

  • Dentists say it is due to pandemic stress

  • One dentist says it is more common in young and middle-aged people

  • Dentists have noticed a dramatic increase in teeth-grinding-related problems.

President of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Dental Association Jeremy Sternson said 2021 had been the year of the cracked tooth.

"Normally in a year you may see a handful of these patients but we were seeing three or four of these a day," he said.

Dr Sternson, who is a practising dentist in Melbourne and has worked as a dentist for 25 years, said many of his patients with cracked teeth had never experienced problems with grinding before.

"We were only open for emergency and urgent care and the majority of urgent work we were seeing was people coming in splitting teeth that had never been split before — teeth that had never even had a filling in them," he said.

"This requires a considerate amount of force."

Emily Pow is a dentist in Melbourne and a Victorian Dental Association councillor.

Dr Pow said there was a certain age group who had been grinding their teeth more.

Dentist Dr Emily Pow says teeth grinding is more prevalent in younger people.(Supplied: Dr Emily Pow)
"It's people from mostly the young to middle-aged groups," she said.

Dr Sternson agreed.

"A classic example is a mother who is also a teacher who was homeschooling," he said.

"She came in and she had had very little dental work in the past. She'd split her tooth clean in half and it had to be removed."

Dr Pow said the whole spectrum of symptoms from grinding teeth had increased this year.

"I'm seeing lots more tender jaws," she said.

"People are saying they have pain around their jaws when waking. People are getting headaches with it, lots of muscle tension and it's all related.

"I've been issuing more nightguards. Certainly, things have gotten worse [in 2021]."

Dr Pow said the stress of lockdowns would have played a part in the increase in tooth grinding.

"I'm seeing more and more teeth grinding in people because of the stress from coming in and out of lockdowns and the uncertainty — the constant changes back and forth," she said.

Dr Sternson said while there was no organised data, among dentists in Victoria it was common knowledge teeth-grinding-related problems had increased during 2021.

"It's one of the things that most of us are seeing and talking about, more jaw and grinding problems than we've ever seen before."

Michael Jonas is president of the NSW branch of the Australian Dental Association and has a dental practice in Tamworth.

Dr Jonas said during the COVID pandemic he had also seen an increase in people grinding their teeth.

"There certainly has been a change," he said.

"People arriving with headaches and neck aches and an increase in people breaking teeth.

"This is anecdotal but I'm seeing it and my colleagues in Sydney are repeating the same thing, an uptick in people with grinding issues."

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