Dentists see surge of cracked teeth, emergency visits amid pandemic

CBS4 This Morning

INDIANAPOLIS — People saying they “hate going to the dentist” is a pretty common phrase.

Six months into the pandemic, it turns out that more people are now being forced to go to the dentist.

Dentists across the country are reporting a rise in patients with cracked teeth filling their waiting rooms. Cracked teeth are a very common issue, but the sudden surge in cases is leaving some dentists scratching their heads.

Turns out the cause for the increase may have pandemic-related causes.

First, dentists say it’s possible some patients may have been putting off going to the dentist in fear of potential virus exposure. Even if you have a little problem, if you wait too long to get it fixed, it can easily turn into a much bigger issue.

Another big cause could be pandemic-related stress. Dentists say stress can often lead to bruxism, or teeth grinding, and teeth grinding can lead to cracks and chips.

Local dentist Doctor Michael Tillery of Tillery Family Dental  says he’s also seeing a spike in patients with cracked teeth. While he says he can’t say for sure if it’s pandemic related, he can see the connection.

“For those that we see that we know brux their teeth, we commonly see signs of stress, anxiety and depression. COVID adds all those things, uncertainty, overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, inability to cope, things like that. So, it’s logical to assume that with these factors present, the pandemic adds to bruxism which then adds to incidents of cracked teeth.”

Tillery says symptoms of bruxism include waking up in the morning with achy and sore jaws. There’s also temporal mandibular joint pain in front of the ear and general tooth pain. He adds the best thing to do if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms is to visit a dentist right away.

“I think the key for patients during this pandemic and during other times of added stress would be to see your dentist on a regular basis to be evaluated for these signs to see if you have them. Because, if they’re caught early enough they can be prevented,” Tillery said.

Tillery adds that often times he finds that people’s hesitancy to for dental work isn’t so much about the actual procedure, rather the finding out of what may be wrong.

His advice: it’s usually better, less painful, and a lot cheaper to address issues now, rather than later.

“If you can catch things at an earlier stage, it’s not only economical, but you can usually go through a lot less trauma in terms of pain.”

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