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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

COVID crunch: Dentists say more people are grinding their teeth

"The first thing we did our first couple weeks back [at the office] was just work on cracked teeth," said Dr. Coleman Meadows of Seaside Dental in La Jolla.

Stress and anxiety are high during the pandemic, and some people are taking that stress out on their teeth. 

Dentists across the country and here in San Diego said they're seeing an increase in patients with fractured teeth. They say one of the big causes is people are grinding their teeth more often. This is not just at night, but also during the day.

"The amount of cracked teeth we treat in our practice has probably increased hundreds of percents," said Dr. Coleman Meadows of Seaside Dental in La Jolla. "So we might see one or two a week, [but] now we're seeing one or two a day."

"If your teeth touch edge to edge, and you squeeze them together, it actually stimulates cortisol from your adrenal glands," he added. "And cortisol is a steroid secreted by your body in response to stressful scenarios, stressful situations."

More stress leads to more grinding and on top of that, patients' every day routines have changed.

"If they were using their retainers or night guards, they’re not doing that as much right now because everyone is kind of out of their normal routine," said Dr. Melissa Minger of Seaside Dental.

In Kearny Mesa, Dr. Kami Hoss of The Super Dentists told News 8 there's also the issue of patients putting off dental visits and that's only making things worse.

"It is safe to go to the dentist," said Dr. Hoss. "When you don't go to the dentist, things start piling up. Small problems get bigger. Small cavities turn into bigger cavities. Bigger cavities turn into infections."

He said dental health is tied to overall health. Hoss said new research out of Europe shows poor oral health could even make complications with coronavirus worse.

"Your oral health impacts your lung health," he said.

Another factor contributing to oral health issues is sleep disorders and sleep disorder breathing. Dentists said they lead to more teeth grinding.

All three dentists recommend getting regular cleanings and check-ups. 

"It’s always better to prevent things than try to fix things," said Dr. Meadows.

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