AUSTIN, Texas — Dr. Hoppy Lane has been with Austin Dental since 2001. In the past two years, he’s prescribed more night guards than normal.

“Our complaints of jaw pain and clenching and grinding have probably gone up in the ballpark of 20 to 30%,” Dr. Lane said.

Texans are carrying a lot of tension in their jaws. Dr. Lane blames the pandemic.

“When we’re stressed, we show that in a lot of different ways," he said. "And a lot of people do it by clenching or tightening the muscles in their face. One thing that we see going along with that is people are wearing these masks so much nowadays, and the masks are kind of tight around your face and your chin, and we see people complaining about pain associated with that, too.”

People have also avoided the dentist due to COVID.

“They let things go until things were really, really bothering them, and then they came in,” he said. “My advice would be, with anything, don’t let it build too long before you go in and get it checked.”

One of Dr. Lane’s patient is Samantha Watson. She’s also worked in the office for two decades. 

“I was a child when I started,” she said with a laugh. "I’ve done a lot of front office, different positions up front. And I’m currently the patient coordinator."

Watson talks with patients daily. They’re dealing with the same thing.

"There’s definitely an increase in anxiety and that sort of thing with our patients," she said.

Watson has suffered with jaw pain for a long time. She wears a night guard. During the day, she actively works to relax her jaw.

"I have a little note on my computer screen to remind me to stretch my jaw when I see it and I can feel it coming on, and that does help," she said.

Wearing a night guard or writing yourself reminders can help ease your discomfort. But the best solution might be outside of the the dentist’s office.

"If you can, definitely find a way to manage your stress, however it is best for you," Dr. Lane said. "Whether it’s relaxation, reading a book, going outside for a walk, going to get some exercise, yoga, meditation. Just do what works for you. That’s the best thing."

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