We’re in a cracked tooth epidemic. And it would be easy to call out stress as the primary cause of grinding teeth. Stress over the impending election. Stress over the impending second wave of COVID-19. Stress over what to make for dinner. It makes sense if you’ve been grinding your teeth out of stress, but according to a recent New York Times report, bad posture might actually be to blame for a chipped tooth.
Yuur posture is likely the worst it has even been now that so many people have switched to that WFH life, the office has become your couch, your bed, the godless, backless bar stool at your countertop. And while people have been hunched over, sitting through an endless Zoom call or even doom scrolling late at night. But what’s the exact correlation between a curved spine and a cracked set of molars?
According to dentist Nammy Patel, DDS, many factors can lead to tooth damage, but bad posture is often an underlying issue of serious tooth damage. “Tooth enamel is incredibly strong, but continuous grinding leads to microcracks in teeth, which leads to chipping and breaking,” she says. “Stress is, of course, one reason for teeth grinding, and many people do this in their sleep. But one common culprit of grinding is TMJ disorder, and TMJ and poor posture often go hand-in-hand. It’s all about alignment.”
For the record, TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder, TMJD, or TMD is an issue with the hinge that connects your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull. Likewise, the temporomandibular joints are aligned with the neck and the base of the spine. It’s about your jaw essentially being out of alignment, and can cause plenty of cute maladies like toothaches, headaches, a locked up jaw, neck and shoulder pain, and popping sound when trying to open your mouth. But even without a formal diagnosis, slouching, hunching, or any bad posture can lead to a mismatched jaw-hinge connection. And that, in turn, can lead to tooth issues.
“Think of it this way, the body is designed for the joints and bones to be in alignment,” says Dr. Patel. “If you have bad posture or are hunched over, your spine will become misaligned, causing your neck and jaw to protrude forward. This forward posture can reduce air flow in your airway, leading to breathing problems like mouth breathing.”
Yikes, don’t want any of that. If you’re finding yourself dealing with more tooth damage these days, you might want to consult a dental professional. But if you suspect that your teeth grinding could be the result of some WFH hunch backing, now might be a good time to learn how to sit straight. A posture corrector can help you sit and live life erect, or if you could consider investing in an ergonomically designed desk chair. Ultimately, we can’t stop the influx of stressful news updates; that’s just a symptom of 2020. But sometimes you can, at least, put your money where your mouth is.