- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

As the economy is grinding to a halt, it’s taking our teeth with it.


Dentists across the nation report higher numbers of patients grinding their teeth than before the recession started in December 2007.

“We are very stressed right now, and one of the ways that stress manifests itself is we grind our teeth,” said Dr. Robert Emami, a dentist in Dedham, Mass. “It’s a serious problem that can lead to the movement of teeth, and ultimately to the loss of teeth.”

In his practice he has two offices just south of Boston the number of teeth grinding cases has doubled in the past year, Dr. Emami said.

Dr. Leslie Seldin, a general dentist and consumer adviser for the American Dental Association, said that although his group doesn’t have any statistics on the increase, he’s heard similar stories from other members.

Teeth grinding can lead to serious problems in the long term, he said, but the main problem initially is a muscle discomfort in the jaw, temples and/or neck after a bruxing another word for teeth grinding night’s sleep.

“The physical attributes of teeth grinding take some time to show up,” Dr. Seldin said. In other words, your teeth will not turn into flat nubs overnight.

“Headaches are more common early symptoms,” he said.

Dr. Seldin recommends regular checkups to prevent chronic conditions from developing.

As does Dr. Emami, suggesting that most patients probably would prefer being fitted for a night guard for $400 to $600 a good defense against damage from teeth grinding to spending thousands of dollars later for possible extractions, bridges and implants.

Over-the-counter night guards run $15 to $30.

“They don’t fit well, but they’re better than nothing,” Dr. Emami said.

He also recommends that bruxing patients make behavioral changes that can alleviate their condition, such as relaxing before bed and not consuming alcohol or caffeine before bedtime.

In the end economic crisis or not patients who have overcome their bruxing usually report benefits beyond reduced muscle pain.

“They tell me they can’t believe how rested they feel when they wake up in the morning,” Dr. Emami said.

And we could all use a good night’s sleep before waking up and facing the seemingly never-ending stress of near-daily layoffs and other dismal economic news: Several states now have double-digit unemployment numbers, more than 4 million people have lost their jobs in the past year, and consumer confidence reached an all-time low in February.

No wonder we’re bruxing our pearly whites.

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