Jaw Pain and Muscle Aches from COVID-related Stress

Jaw Pain and Muscle Aches from COVID-related stress

 Dr. Chris Tavakoli, DDS

As the COVID pandemic continues to affect our world population with no definitive end in sight, there has been a noticeable increase in an often-overlooked part of our physical health…TMJ disorder. Ever since the reopening of our office, there have been many patients reporting spontaneous headaches, broken teeth, tight jaw muscles, and sore teeth upon waking up in the mornings. These are all tell-tale signs of bruxism (formal term for excessive teeth grinding or jaw clenching).

The constant stress of being trapped inside our homes under lockdown and the ominous headlines on national news broadcasts about the COVID pandemic have put a lot of patients under extra physical and mental stress. As a result, we are noticing more of our patients clenching their teeth as an anxious habit during the day or showing signs of teeth grinding in their sleep. The heavy forces on the teeth put significant strain and tension on our TMJ (jaw joint) which overworks the nerves supplying our jaw muscles and teeth and thus explains the aches and pains.

While there is no magic bullet solution to avoid grinding our teeth, there certainly are ways to treat the symptoms with safe and simple home remedies.

1)     If symptomatic, start a softer food diet to put less strain on the jaw joint (TMJ)

2)     Avoid chewing gum

3)     Self-jaw muscle massage

4)     Apply heating pad to sore areas of the jaw for 20 minutes (increases blood flow, relaxes the muscle). Repeat up to 3 times a day

5)     Avoid caffeine in the evening hours (can cause hyperactivity of jaw muscles during sleep)

6)     Take OTC anti-inflammatory medication (i.e. Advil or Aleve)

7)     Relaxation techniques (non-caffeinated Chamomile tea before bed, yoga, meditation, acupuncture)

Signs that you may have been clenching and grinding your teeth:

1)     Chipped teeth or flattened edges

2)     Sore jaw muscles and/or teeth when waking up

3)     Unexplained headaches throughout the day

4)     Generalized tooth sensitivity (heavy grinding of teeth can over-activate the nerves of teeth resulting in cold sensitivity)

5)     Difficulty chewing food

If you start to notice any of the above symptoms, do not hesitate to schedule a visit with us and we will do a thorough evaluation of your TMJ and all the supporting muscles. Upon examination, we will recommend the appropriate mouthguard appliance to minimize the heavy forces on your teeth and jaw during nighttime clenching. The mouthguard will be custom made just for you and will serve as a protective cushion for your teeth and help preserve them for many years to come!

Why Choose a Pediatric Dentist?

When it’s time to take a child for their first visit to the dentist, choosing the right dental office can be tricky. Most parents have a trusted family dentist and he or she is the first option that pops into mind. However, choosing a family dentist may not be the best option for a child. Instead, it may be best to find a qualified pediatric dentist.

Pediatric Dentists are specialists in Pediatric Dentistry just like Pediatricians are the experts for children in medicine. Simply put- they are the experts of kid dentistry!!

After graduation from Dental School, Pediatric Dentists complete another two to three years of additional intensive pediatric dental training specifically focused on treating the unique dental issues of children and teens, including those who are disabled or have special needs.

One of the biggest reasons to choose a pediatric dentist over a family dentist is their extensive knowledge and understanding of the oral health and growth of children’s teeth. Parents choosing pediatric dentists will have the added benefit of knowing their child is in the hands of someone with a high level of specialized training and commitment. In addition, pediatric dentists are educators. Prevention and treatment are the primary focus areas of pediatric dentists, along with educating parents and other dental professionals on how best to treat their children. They provide parents with the necessary information to properly care for their child’s ongoing oral health and well-being by discussing nutrition, oral growth and development and any pacifier or digit/ thumb sucking habits that a child might have in addition to providing preventative tips and treatments like sealants. 

Pediatric dentists keep your child’s comfort in mind with a fun and relaxing atmosphere. Specialized pediatric dental instruments are used to provide optimal care for developing teeth. Staff members are experienced in working with children and know how to make kids feel comfortable and safe by using age-appropriate words.

Most parents will rave about their pediatric dentist ability to be patient and have a calming mannerism. Just when little ones may not have self-control, pediatric dentists make up for that because of their ability to relate to your child and help children with comfort, patience and understanding.

From first tooth to adolescence, a pediatric dentist helps your child develop a healthy smile until they’re ready to move on to a general dentist. They work with parents to teach their children healthy brushing habits, inform them about the importance of flossing, and give them dietary tips that will keep their mouth clean for years to come.

Does My Child Need Dental X-Rays?

Does my child need X-rays

Every child is unique and the need for dental x-rays varies from child to child. Dental X-rays play an important role in diagnosis and treatment planning of your child’s dental care needs. They show us know when something’s wrong and assist us in checking the development of your child as they grow. Not every child needs an X-ray at every check-up.  Films are taken only after reviewing your child’s medical, dental histories, performing a clinical examination and when they are most likely to yield information when a clinical exam cannot.

Since X-rays use low levels of radiation, we’re conservative about when and why we use them for your child. In general, children’s mouths grow and change rapidly. Children are also more susceptible than adults to tooth decay. For children with high risk of tooth decay, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends X-ray examinations every six months to detect cavities developing between the teeth. Children with a low risk of tooth decay require x-ray exams less frequently.

My child has never had a cavity, should he/she get x-rays? 

X-rays detect more than cavities- they may be needed to check erupting teeth, evaluate for any missing or extra teeth, diagnose any bone disease, evaluate an injury or to plan for any orthodontic treatment.  X-rays allow dentists to diagnose and treat conditions that may not be visible on a clinical exam. When dental problems are found and treated early, care is more comfortable and affordable.

Are dental x-rays safe?

We take the utmost care to minimize the exposure of our child patients. With contemporary safeguards like lead body protection shields/aprons, high-speed films and digital x-rays, the amount of x-ray radiation received in a dental x-ray examination is extremely small thus assuring that your child receives minimal radiation. As a matter of fact, dental x-rays pose a far smaller risk than any undetected dental problems that can lead to pain and extensive, expensive problems.

Will my child get x-rays routinely?

We recommend x-rays films only when necessary to evaluate and monitor your child’s oral health. We determine the frequency of the x-rays films based on your child’s dental needs.  If your child had dental x-rays taken at a previous dentist, please have them send copies to our office to minimize radiation exposure.





Your Child’s First Dental Visit

When should I take my child for the First Dental Visit?

One of the most important things you can do for your child is to set them up for a lifetime of healthy smiles by starting dental visits early. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry as well as the American Dental Association recommend that your child’s first dental visit to the dentist happen when their first tooth appears but no later than their first birthday.  FIRST VISIT BY FIRST BIRTHDAY.

We call this first visit, a “Well-baby Check or a Happy visit” for your child.  It is best for a child to have a pleasant first meeting with the dentist and the team. This first visit helps your child to have a Dental Home. Don’t wait until an emergency arises to introduce your child to the dentist.

Why should I start dental visits early for my child?

Prevention is the key to a healthy smile! At your baby/child’s first visit, we provide nutritional and diet counselling, discuss feeding, oral habits like pacifier or thumb sucking, show you how to clean your child’s teeth, do a quick gentle examination and recommend dental care products. We also make sure that your child is getting the right amount of fluoride, which is a natural mineral that protects your child’s teeth.

This “Well-baby or Happy Visit” also helps you to set up a Dental Home for your child, where you can bring your child every six months. This helps your child get familiar to the dental setting and also helps us to get to know your child and your family’s dental needs so that your child will have the best care.

Tips for your baby/child’s first visit

If possible, schedule a morning appointment when children tend to be rested and cooperative. Don’t schedule during naptime. In the many years of seeing babies and children we have found that children younger than age 8 and specially babies and toddlers do best during the mid-morning hours like between 10AM – 1PM.

Stay positive! Children and even little babies can pick up on any anxiety that their parents may show.



How to Take Care of your Baby’s Teeth

Breastfeeding:  Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, moist gauze or washcloth after you breastfeed. Once your child’s first tooth comes in make sure to brush their teeth after each feeding.

Bottles, sipping and snacking:  Do not put your child to bed with a bottle or training cup- if you absolutely must then best to only have water in them. Avoid giving your baby fruit juice until they are one year old. Limit sugary drinks and sweets to mealtime. Sipping sugary liquids all day will expose your baby’s teeth to acids that can break down enamel and cause decay.  Should your child want to snack- healthy snacks are the best! Don’t give your child chewy, sticky foods like candy, cookies, chips and crackers.

Pacifiers:  It is best to avoid using a pacifier, if a baby does not want to take one. However, in case you notice that your baby is resorting to thumb or finger sucking, it is better to give a pacifier. A Pacifier habit is easier to break in the long run versus a thumb or finger sucking habit. Should your baby take a pacifier, do not dip the pacifier or nipple of a bottle into anything sweet. Also, do not put a pacifier or a spoon in your mouth before giving it to your child. Decay causing bacteria that is in your mouth can be passed to them.

Brushing:  We recommend that parents wipe your baby’s gums after each feeding and once the first tooth comes in to brush after every feeding.

Establish a Dental Home: The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry as well as the American Dental Association recommend that your baby’s first dental visit be when the first tooth comes in or by the first birthday.

Your Baby’s Teeth

Babies are born without teeth.  Baby teeth, also called as primary teeth usually start to appear when your child is 6 months old. By the time a child is 3 years old, most children will have a full set of 20 baby teeth in their mouth.  However, this varies as each child is unique. Your child’s teeth may come in earlier or later.

Baby teeth can start to decay as soon as they come in as the enamel in baby teeth is thinner than in adult teeth.  Sugar is present in almost everything a baby drinks like in breast milk, formula and 100% juices.   Only water is sugar free.  Acid from sugary drinks can stay on the teeth and can attack the teeth if it is on for 20 minutes or longer.  When teeth are in contact with liquids that contain sugar then decay can start.


Does Invisalign in McLean Work For All Ages? Find Out Here!

Smiling woman putting in Invisalign traysLet’s be honest: no matter how badly you’d like to have beautifully straight teeth, the idea of wearing metal brackets and wires just isn’t very appealing. We understand! Whether you’re a pre-teen, young adult or you’re on the verge of retirement, most people simply don’t want to deal with the discomfort or appearance of traditional braces.

Thankfully, modern dentistry has offered a new option! Invisalign in McLean is the comfortable, invisible way to straighten your teeth, often in less time than braces would take. But does it work equally well for all age groups? Keep reading to find out!


How Does Invisalign Work For Different Age Groups?

It’s important to note that age in itself won’t discount you from being a good candidate for Invisalign. However, some of the things that potentially go with your age could!

While everything is determined on a case-by-case basis, here are a few general things your dentist will take into consideration before recommending treatment:

  • Teens – Commitment and self-discipline are the main requirements for teens. The clear trays have to be worn for a minimum of 22 hours a day for treatment to be completed on time. It’s not uncommon for patients in this age group to leave them out too long each day or even lose them altogether!
  • Young Adults – Older teens and young adults are typically in a “sweet spot” for Invisalign. Not only do they have the commitment, but their oral health is generally good enough that it doesn’t present a problem.
  • Mature Adults – One of the main factors your dentist will look at is your bone density. If you’ve lost significant bone mass in your jaws, you may not get a good result from Invisalign.

As always, the best way to know for sure if you’re a good candidate is to schedule a consultation with ‘dentist near me’ that offers Invisalign. They’ll be able to look at your unique circumstances and answer any questions you may have.

Invisalign Tips and Tricks For All Ages

If you and your dentist decide that this treatment is for you, here are some great tips and tricks to get the most from your experience, regardless of your age:

  • Take care of your trays – Gently brush your trays with toothpaste after meals, always store them in their containers during meals, and don’t twist or bend them when you put them in.
  • Practice good hygiene – One of the biggest advantages of Invisalign is that it’s much easier to keep your teeth clean and healthy than it would be with braces, so make sure to brush at least twice a day and floss once.
  • Get regular checkups – Another perk of Invisalign is that you can continue getting checkups and cleanings with the same dentist who provides your treatment. With regular dental care, you’ll not only have a straight smile when treatment is over, but a healthy smile as well.

Invisalign is an easy, convenient way to straighten your teeth. Whether young or old, it’s a fantastic investment in your oral health!

About the Author

With decades of experience, Dr. Fred Farahi has used Invisalign to straighten the smiles of countless patients of all ages. He loves being able to offer the same great results that you could get from braces, without the hassle and inconvenience. If you have any questions, he can be reached at (703) 821-1633.