With growing health concerns, economic pressures and uncertainties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to a modern culture that’s consistently defined by a work-first, sleep-last attitude, a rising phenomenon is no doubt developing: increased stress leading to a rise in the number of teeth grinders.

In recent history, there has never been another time when every one of us across the globe – no matter our nationality, economic status or experiences – has felt the burden of increased stress caused by a single event alone. While no one’s situation is exactly the same, the connections we share, including the symptoms that result out of our stress – are often consistent.

Progressively subconscious reactions, physical symptoms

Whether in the midst of economic hardship or a bustling economy, according to the American Dental Association, an average of 15 percent of adult Americans grind their teeth. This is undeniably amplified during tragic events or recession. In fact, recessions and rising jobless rates, like many are experiencing now, are a breeding ground for stress – and our bodies indeed react to that.

Bruxism, more simply known as teeth grinding, is mostly a subconscious activity. Because most teeth grinders don’t realize they’re actively damaging their teeth, gums and bone structure, it often goes unnoticed. Although for many, the morning headaches and facial soreness that results – especially the inevitable chipped tooth – becomes impossible to ignore.

While the ultimate solution would be to end the root cause of the stress for good, it’s evident that is often out of our control. As such, it’s imperative that people work to both curb the impacts through a number of lifestyle improvements, as well as take strides to shield the mouth through the process.

Curbing the release of energy through exercise, relaxation, and yes, mouth protection

Whether you’re stressed as a result of authentic or perceived causes, your body has to ultimately release the energy that’s built up inside. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the people on the front lines responding the COVID-19 crisis are more at risk for stress, and respond strongly to it. Meanwhile, the vast majority of us remain quarantined in our homes to limit exposure, preventing us from visiting friends and family, attending shows or simply walking to a café to grab a cup of coffee – adding to the stress that results from the uprooting of our “normal” lives.

Fortunately, there are some methods people can utilize to lessen the impact.

We’ve all heard of the benefits that exercise, yoga and meditation can provide us – especially during high stress times – but the only immediate, short-term and affordable solution to curb the impact of bruxism are night guards, also known as an occlusal splint.

It’s estimated that some nocturnal teeth grinders will grind up to 40 minutes of every hour of sleep. That relentless wear and tear erodes enamel, fractures teeth, affects one’s every day bite and can even alter facial structure by the thickening of the lower jaw.

While many view nightguards as a temporary solution, the result is actually the opposite. There have been several cases of people who used to grind their teeth constantly, only to find that the guard itself helped to train to stop to the behavior all together.

By taking steps to curb the impacts of stress now, people can prevent prolonged future pain, and get better sleep which unquestionably helps us all to improve upon how we react to negative situations – conscious or subconsciously.

About the authors

Kevin and Jack Gindi are brothers and owners of Cheeky in New York City, an affordable brand of night guards that was born out of their own experiences from stress and grinding teeth.