By Emily Sohn
September 12, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. EDT
I have been a frequent visitor to my dentist’s office since it reopened after lockdowns during the initial stages of the pandemic. First came a cracked tooth, then a cracked filling. Both were painful enough to wake me up at night.
“It’s astronomical,” she says. “I’ve seen more patients with problems from grinding in the last few months than I have in the rest of my career.”
The technical term for disordered teeth-grinding and jaw-clenching is bruxism, and the behavior falls into two categories, says Gary Klasser, a specialist in orofacial pain at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center’s School of Dentistry in New Orleans.
There is bruxism that happens while awake and bruxism that happens during sleep. Each has its own causes and potential solutions, but both appear to be common. Sleep bruxism, which is more well-studied, occurs in an estimated 5 to 8 percent of adults (and in up to 50 percent of children, although it usually goes away as they get older). But benign clenching and grinding into adulthood is far more common than that. A full 60 percent of adults exh