Health & Fitness

Dentists Are Seeing an Epidemic of Cracked Tooth. What’s Going On?

So what can we do?

You’d be surprised how many people are unaware that they’re clenching and grinding. Even patients who come into the office complaining of pain and sensitivity are often incredulous when I point it out. “Oh, no. I don’t grind my teeth,” is a refrain I hear over and over again, despite the fact that I’m often watching them do it.

Awareness is key. Are your teeth currently touching? Even as you read this article? If so, that’s a sure sign that you’re doing some damage — your teeth shouldn’t actually touch throughout the day at all unless you’re actively eating and chewing your food. Instead, your jaw should be relaxed, with a bit of space between the teeth when the lips are closed. Be mindful, and try to stop yourself from grinding when you catch yourself doing it.

If you have a night guard or retainer, devices that keep the teeth in proper alignment and prevent grinding, try popping them in during the day. These appliances provide a physical barrier, absorbing and dispersing pressure. As I often tell my patients, I’d much rather you crack a night guard than crack a tooth. Your dentist can custom make a night guard to assure proper fit.

And since many of us will be continuing to work from home for months, it is imperative to set up a proper work station. Ideally, when seated, your shoulders should be over your hips, and your ears should be over your shoulders. Computer screens should be at eye level; prop up your monitor or laptop on a box or a stack of books if you don’t have an adjustable chair or desk.

The Coronavirus Outbreak ›

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated September 4, 2020

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot, though some people don’t show many symptoms at all. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome and received supplemental oxygen. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms.

Why is it safer to spend time together outside?

Outdoor gatherings lower risk because wind disperses viral droplets, and sunlight can kill some of the virus. Open spaces prevent the virus from building up in concentrated amounts and being inhaled, which can happen when infected people exhale in a confined space for long stretches of time, said Dr. Julian W. Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester.

Why does standing six feet away from others help?

The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.

I have antibodies. Am I now immune?

As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.

What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?

Consider, too, that in our new home offices, it’s not uncommon to roll out of bed, find a couch, then sit for nine hours a day. Try to mix it up with some standing, whenever possible, and incorporate more movement. Use each and every bathroom break, or phone call, as an opportunity to take more steps, no matter how small your home or apartment might be.

At the end of the workday, I advise my patients to — excuse the very technical, medical term here — “wiggle like a fish.” Lie down on the floor on your back, with your arms extended straight above your head, and gently wiggle your arms, shoulders, hips and feet from side to side. The goal is to decompress and elongate the spine, as well as release and relieve some of that tension and pressure.

If you’ve got a bathtub, consider taking a 20-minute Epsom salt soak in the evening. Focus on breathing through your nose and relaxing, rather than thinking about work, scrolling through emails, or contemplating your kids’ back-to-school schedule (easier said than done, I know).

Related Articles