Almost a year after the new coronavirus made its appearance in China and spread around the world, life is a grind. As a result, people – especially women – are grinding their teeth excessively (known to dentists as bruxism), causing pain in the facial muscles and dental damage.
During Israel’s first lockdown, one out of every two women suffered from bruxism as the stress and anxiety experienced by the general population during brought about a significant rise in orofacial and jaw pain, as well as jaw-clenching in the daytime and teeth-grinding at night.
This was shown in a new study from the Goldschleger School of Dental Medicine at Tel Aviv University’s (TAU) Sackler Faculty of Medicine –
and in Poland, but it is probably apt elsewhere around the world as well. Dr. Alona Emodi-Perlman and Prof. Ilana Eli of the dental school, in collaboration with Dr. Nir Uziel and Dr. Efrat Gilon of TAU and researchers from the University of Wroclaw in Poland published their paper in the Journal of Clinical Medicine under the title Temporomandibular Disorders and Bruxism Outbreak as a Possible Factor of Orofacial Pain Worsening during the COVID-19 Pandemic –
Concomitant Research in Two Countries.”
They found that during Israel’s first lockdown the general population exhibited a considerable rise in orofacial pain, as well as jaw-clenching in the daytime and teeth-grinding at night – physical symptoms often caused by stress and anxiety. Women suffered from these symptoms more than men, and the middle generation of 35 to 55 year olds suffered more than those who are younger or older.
“We believe that our findings reflect the distress felt by the middle generation, who were cooped up at home with young children, without the usual help from grandparents, while also worrying about their elderly parents, facing with financial problems and often required to work from home under trying conditions,” the team said.
Emodi-Perlman and Eli specialize in facial and jaw pain, with emphasis on TMD (temporo-mandibular disorders), which are chronic pain in the facial muscles and jaw joints, as well as bruxism These syndromes are known to be greatly impacted by emotional factors such as stress and anxiety.
The researchers thus decided to conduct a study examining the presence and possible worsening of these symptoms in the general population during the first COVID-19 lockdown due to the national emergency and rise in anxiety levels. The questionnaire was answered by a total of 1,800 respondents in Israel and Poland.
In Israel, a significant rise was found in all symptoms, compared to data from studies conducted before the pandemic. The prevalence of TMD symptoms rose from about 35% in the past to 47% (increase of 12%) during the pandemic; the prevalence of jaw-clenching in the daytime rose from about 17% to 32% (increase of 15%); and teeth-grinding at night rose from about 10% to 36% (increase of 25%).
Altogether a rise of 10%-25% was recorded in these symptoms, which often reflect emotional stress. People who had suffered from these symptoms before the pandemic exhibited a rise of about 15% in their severity. The researchers found a high correlation between the symptoms on the one hand and gender and anxiety level on the other.
Women suffer from these symptoms much more than men, and people with high levels of anxiety tend to develop them more than those with lower anxiety levels.
Dividing the respondents into age-groups also generated interesting results, with the middle group (35 to 55) reporting a much greater rise in symptoms compared to the younger (18 to 34) and older (56 and over) groups. At the bottom line, the group that suffered most from the symptoms during the first lockdown were women aged 35 to 55: 48% suffered from TMD, 46% clenched their jaws in the daytime, and about 50% ground their teeth at night.
In addition, comparing findings in Israel to results in Poland, the researchers found that probability of TMD and bruxism was much higher among respondents in Poland.