How has the COVID-19 pandemic increased bruxism rates?

COVID-19 lockdown stress and anxiety upped rates of daytime jaw clenching and bruxism, findings from a new study have revealedLockdown stress and anxiety upped rates of jaw clenching and teeth grinding, new findings reveal. 

In addition, women were found to suffer from these symptoms more than men – while 35 to 55-year-olds struggled the most.

The study – which was carried out at Tel Aviv University – analysed questionnaires that assessed the potential worsening of symptoms over the first lockdown at the beginning of the year.

With feedback from more than 1,800 participants, the results suggest a significant hike in orofacial pain.

Spike in symptoms

For example, prevalence of jaw clenching and bruxism increased to 47% from its pre-pandemic level of 35% pre-pandemic. Jaw clenching in the daytime shot up from around 17% to 32%. Similarly, teeth grinding at night rose from 10% to 36%.

And participants who had suffered from these symptoms before the onset of the pandemic reported a rise of about 15% in their severity.

The study was carried out by Dr Alona Emodi-Periman and Professor Ilana Eli.

‘We believe that our findings reflect the distress felt by the middle generation, who were cooped up at home with young children,’ the research team said.

‘They were without the usual help from grandparents, whilst also worrying about their elderly parents. Additionally, they faced financial problems and were often required to work from home under trying conditions.’

Rising levels of bruxism

Dental professionals have warned of rising levels of bruxism as a result of COVID-19.

Dr Ahmed Hussain reported increased levels of grinding in patients after practices were allowed to reopen their doors in June.

Similarly, Zainab Al Mukhtar says more patients have been reporting tooth pain.

‘More people are presenting with pain in the TMJ,’ she says.

‘They have tense muscles of mastication, increased signs of tooth wear. In some, we see enlarged masseter muscles and complaints of wider looking jaws.’

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