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More people suffer cracked teeth from COVID-19 stress

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SALT LAKE CITY — Do you wake up with a sore jaw, headaches or even cracked teeth? It could be the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic causing you to gnash, grind and clench your teeth at night.

The cracked teeth epidemic

Why are so many dentists reporting an uptick in cracked teeth? We’re all feeling the PRESSURE.

Check out the latest from KSL Newsradio host Jeff Caplan, every weekday afternoon.

Posted by KSL Newsradio on Thursday, September 17, 2020

Dentists around the nation are seeing more patients with cracked teeth and suspect COVID-19 stress is playing a role.

Kevin Mangelson, doctor of dental medicine, who runs The Center for Sleep Apnea & TMJ in Salt Lake County, joined Lee Lonsberry on Live Mic to discuss. TMJ is the medical term for dysfunction and pain in the muscles that move the jaw.

Intense pressure = cracked teeth

Mangelson said his patients report they didn’t have TMJ jaw pain or cracked teeth before the COVID-19 pandemic or being furloughed from a job.

To avoid cracked teeth and a trip to the dentist, Mangelson recommends this mantra: Lips together, teeth apart. Sounds easy, but Mangelson said nightly teeth grinding is unconscious behavior.

“Research actually shows that we can put intense pressure on our teeth at night time without ever being aware of it,” he said. “You may need to get something to wear over your teeth to protect your teeth.”

Lee asked Mangelson if he can see the damage to a patient from nightly teeth grinding.

“Sometimes we can see evidence of it, but mostly we just talk to the patient and find out,” he said. 

Mangelson said if a person wakes up in the morning to an aching jaw or if he or she can’t open their mouth as wide, that may likely indicate night teeth grinding. He added that a tension headache upon waking is another sign of teeth gnashing at night.

Patients may not have the cash flow that they had before the pandemic and therefore be reluctant to go see a dentist about cracked teeth, Lee pointed out.

Don’t put off a trip to the dentist

“Talk to us about what could possibly happen if we forgo treatment of this nature?” he asked.

Mangleson said skipping or delaying treatment for a dental problem only makes things worse.

“Some of these problems are simple to deal with in the short term, But may be more difficult to deal with in the long term,” Mangelson said. “Just check in with your dentist [if you are experiencing jaw pain] . . . Not all treatments are overly expensive. Sometimes, it can be as simple as a few exercises, maybe some over-the-counter medication. 

Mangelson added that free telemedicine spots are available at the The Center for Sleep Apnea & TMJ at 6287 S Redwood Road in Taylorsville.

“The best rule of thumb is if you ever have a question, go see your dentist,” Mangelson said.


Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.