By CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh

LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4)– COVID-19 and the challenges that have come with the pandemic have been stressful and it is affecting our teeth. More than half of dentists surveyed by the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute are seeing an increase of patients with dental conditions often associated with stress: teeth grinding and clenching, chipped and cracked teeth, jaw pain and headaches.

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Kate Gojkovich started a new job right around the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The 33-year-old is both Chief of Staff and Chief Development Officer at a Denver area private high school.

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“It’s definitely been a stressful couple of months for sure, just trying to be able to make the right decision for the students and the families and the teachers,” Kate told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Kate said she started having headaches and jaw pain.

“I had pain you know in my temples, I had pain right in my jawline,” she explained.

Kate went to her dentist and learned her tension was showing up in her teeth.

“I just started really grinding my teeth at night, really clenching,” she said.

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And she’s not alone.

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“In our practice we’ve seen the numbers more than double,” said Dr. Kelly Santarelli, DDS.

She is an associate at the Littleton office of Dr. Christopher Morris, DMD and Kate’s dentist.

Dr. Santarelli said from May 11 to November 11 of 2019, she and Dr. Morris prescribed 19 custom night guards to stop stress grinding and clenching. In the same time period in 2020, they prescribed 44.

“And some people are chipping teeth, fracturing teeth, cracking teeth in half as well,” said Dr. Santarelli. “This isn’t just a local thing, it’s a national thing. Dentists everywhere, for the most part, are seeing the same thing we are in our practice.”

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Kate has been wearing her night guard for more than a week.

“I do honestly feel a difference every day when I wake up,” she said.

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Pandemic stress may stick around, but Kate takes comfort in getting a grip on her grinding.

Kathy Walsh