Dr. Kristen Whetsell
2020 got you down? It’s fair to say that this has been a stressful year all around. Believe it or not, the effects of all this extra stress (working from home, zoom school, general background stress) are already showing up in our mouths. This added stress can often manifest as clenching and grinding our teeth, which is called bruxism. Bruxism is an extremely destructive condition of the mouth where the teeth are ground down by excess forces from clenching and grinding. This can result in pain in the muscles around the jaw, pain and tenderness in the teeth, and even headaches. It can also crack and destroy teeth to the point where they need root canals, crowns, or to be removed and replaced with an implant. Even a tooth that has never had a cavity can break from the stress of grinding!
When you see your dentist, they will look for signs of damage in your teeth and ask if you are feeling pain in your muscles. If you are noticing any jaw or neck muscle pain, sore teeth, headaches on waking, definitely tell your dentist! This can be treated with a splint, or guard. The guard is an appliance that you wear over your teeth to protect the teeth from the forces produced in grinding. It also takes the stress off your jaw joints and relieves sore muscles. It is usually worn at night but if daytime grinding is your problem it can also be worn during the day. It is important to see your dentist to be professionally evaluated and determine if a guard will help and which type to fabricate. Your dentist should also give you other tips and ways to reduce jaw pain.
Bottom line, while we may not be able to eliminate the stress of 2020, your teeth should not have to suffer for it! Now more than ever it is important to be proactive in our health, and that starts with our mouths. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described here, please let your friendly dentist know and see if they can help you!
Dr. Whetsell is very involved in the dental profession and is on the Board of Directors for the San Diego County Dental Society. She is also the New Dentist Committee chair. She has always had a passion for humanitarian work and has volunteered with UC San Diego Free Dental Clinic Project. She also participated in the USNS Mercy humanitarian mission in Southeast Asia in 2006. Dr. Whetsell values cultivating lifelong relationships with her patients. She believes that each patient should have personalized attention and that there is no one size fits all approach to dental health. She lives in North Park with her husband, Ian. She enjoys the active lifestyle living in San Diego offers and loves hiking, stand up paddle boarding, yoga, skiing and traveling.