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Doctors See An Uptick In Teeth Issues During The Pandemic

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

OK, if there is one thing we have all felt during this pandemic - working from home, going to school from home - it's the stress, right?

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

I know I've been feeling it. And when I say feeling it, I mean it - my neck, my right shoulder, my back. Mix in lousy ergonomics, and it's not great.

CHANG: Yeah, same here. And apparently, those are not the only body parts that are suffering from our increased time at home.

TAMMY CHEN: Every day we've been getting emergency calls or patients coming in saying I've broken a tooth, my jaw hurts, not knowing what was wrong.

PFEIFFER: That's New York-based prosthodontist Tammy Chen. Her line of dentistry specializes in issues with jaws and tooth repair.

CHANG: In a piece in The New York Times last week, Dr. Chen said her patients began experiencing all kinds of tooth damage as soon as lockdown started.

CHEN: I've been seeing an uptick in broken teeth, broken restorations, increase in dental pain, really, because people are stressed out.

PFEIFFER: She says clenching your jaw, grinding your teeth, it's a natural response to the stresses we've been put under because of COVID lockdowns.

CHEN: Think about a time when your boss was asking you to do something you didn't want to do or you were really frustrated with a child and trying to not scream and yell at them, an inherent response is to kind of grit your teeth together. So as a result to this anxiety, we're just seeing so much more clenching and grinding. People just kind of gritting their teeth together, trying to, like, grin and bear it and trying to get through this as best as they can.

CHANG: One thing Dr. Chen recommends, simple awareness, checking in on yourself to make sure your mouth isn't clenched up throughout the day.

CHEN: Our teeth shouldn't touch throughout the days. Our lips should be closed. With our lips closed, there should be enough space where you can stick the tip of your tongue in between your back teeth without having to move your jaw.

PFEIFFER: Another bit of advice for your cracked teeth or potential TMJ is to think about other parts of your body. Dr. Chen says we need to remember to get out of our home offices, or our home office bedrooms, every now and then, even just go on a walk to give your back a break because everything is interconnected.

CHEN: It breaks up the day, and it allows your spine and your body to decompress with movement. Now with us at home, if we have a question, we simply email a colleague. We tend to sit in one seat for way too long. And as a result, everything just kind of slowly compresses upon itself.

CHANG: Mmm hmm. So here's to the new normal, and hopefully a less stressful one at that.

PFEIFFER: And one in which your teeth will last you well into your later years.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHAZ BUNDICK MEETS THE MATTSON 2'S "DISCO KID") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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