9th September 2021

Pandemic Bruxism: How COVID-19 Has Led to a Huge Surge in Cases

Last Modified: April 18, 2023

The title Dr in front of my name (it’s Farmah btw ) has less to do with my exemplary record as an aesthetician but more to do with my work as a consultant psychiatrist. Since the first surge of  COVID-19 cases in the UK in early 2020, I have been on the front line fighting the pandemic, especially its adverse ramifications on mental health.

I believe this has granted me unique insight into the extent to which this pandemic has affected our communities. But that’s a story for another day. Today, I want to talk about how COVID-19 has impacted my second job: running an aesthetics clinic.

Let me explain:

Why I Have Been Getting More Bruxism Patients

If you have found yourself dealing with worsening bruxism symptoms such as painful teeth grinding and jaw pain in 2020/2021, it’s probably not just a coincidence. Elevated levels of stress and anxiety have a well-established link to a greater probability of bruxism. Actually, it has been found that nearly 70% of bruxism occurs due to elevated levels of stress or anxiety.

But the COVID-19 pandemic may have made things much worse. An international study—published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine in 2020—showed a 15% increase in the severity of Bruxism symptoms among the participants.

The study authors noted that the stress and anxiety associated with the constant threat of illness, economic concerns, and social isolation could lead to the prevalence and worsening of bruxism symptoms.

This report coincides with what we’ve been observing in our clinic. Over the past year or so, there has been an influx of new clients looking for an alternative solution to their pandemic bruxism. In case you are wondering, we treat bruxism symptoms with Botox (yes, that Botox).

Coming back to my work as a consultant psychiatrist, when I get a patient suffering from stress and demonstrating evidence of bruxism, I’m in the ideal position to give advice on stress management and provide an effective reprieve for the bruxism.

If you have been a regular reader of our blog posts, you already know that we take a holistic approach to all our cosmetic or therapeutic Botox® treatments. 

We care about addressing the visible concern (may it be wrinkles or in this case bruxism symptoms) as well as the underlying, less visible and easily ignored issues like mental health. 

For example, we don’t expect the strong emotions welled up from being self-conscious about the appearance of facial wrinkles to suddenly disappear because a couple of Botox treatments have faded away the wrinkles

It’s never that simple.

That’s why I am very passionate about helping my patients deal better with emotional distress brought about or made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as treat their bruxism symptoms. This two-pronged approach is proving to be a pretty effective remedy for pandemic bruxism sufferers.

How to Know if You’re Suffering from Pandemic Bruxism

Pandemic bruxism is in no way different from ‘normal’ bruxism other than the fact it can be directly linked to Covid-19 related stress. If you want to know other potential causes of bruxism, read our article: 6 Possible Causes Of Bruxism + ( How To Deal With Each Today).

Bruxism is often classified into two categories: Awake Bruxism and Sleep Bruxism. On the one hand, daytime teeth grinding is easy to recognize because it happens when people are awake and alert. 

On the other hand, nighttime bruxism might prove more challenging to identify unless a partner complains of sleep disruptions due to the noise from the teeth grinding. Refer to the article this article to learn why nighttime teeth grinding can be quite nosy!

That said, people who clench a lot overnight often wake up with a sore jaw, stiff neck, or pain around the head and neck which may mimic an earache or headache. Another sign to look for is dental abnormalities like tooth wear or broken teeth.  

At the end of the day, a medical check-up is the best way to diagnose if you are truly suffering from bruxism. Your healthcare provider will examine your teeth for signs of bruxism, such as flattened tips, among other indicators. Often the signs need to be observed over the subsequent few visits before a conclusive diagnosis is made and a treatment plan is started.

Once you have established that you are suffering from pandemic bruxism, the next step is to identify how the changes brought about by the pandemic have influenced your mental wellbeing.

There’s no denying that the pandemic has drastically changed the routine way of life. The study we quoted shows a clear correlation between COVID-19 and increased stress levels. For many people, one of the potential unpleasant outcomes of higher stress and anxiety levels is that it can result in first-time pandemic bruxism or make existing symptoms worse.

Fighting Pandemic Bruxism with Botox

As I have already mentioned, we use Botox to alleviate the symptoms of bruxism successfully

By injecting small doses of Botox directly into the masseter muscle (the large muscle that moves the jaw), the muscle is weakened enough to stop the involuntary grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw. This significantly relaxes the muscle, lessens jaw soreness and reduces the wear and tear on the teeth due to grinding. Damage to the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) and headaches should be reduced or eliminated as well.

Currently, there’s no known cure for bruxism since the condition can be linked to a myriad of triggers. Although botulinum toxin injections are not a cure for bruxism (they don’t treat the underlying cause), for most patients, they can effectively control the uncomfortable symptoms better than options like nightguards

It’s important to note that the effects of Botox against bruxism typically lasts for three to four months. This means you will need 2-3 treatments per year. The good thing is that the treatments are simple and straightforward and often doesn’t last more than 15 minutes. When you think about it, that’s about one hour every year to keep bruxism at bay!

Post Reviewed by: Dr Baldeep Farmah
Medically Reviewed on: 9th September 2021
Dr Baldeep Farmah is the Medical Director and lead Doctor of Dr Aesthetica, a Medical Aesthetic Clinic.

"We want to empower everyone who walks through our clinic doors, to be able to look in the mirror and see a happier, brighter version of themselves."

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