Teeth grinding blamed on quake stress

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012

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The stress of Canterbury's earthquakes could be damaging people's teeth, a Christchurch dentist says.

New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) Canterbury president Donna Batchelor said the region's dentists had noticed a growing number of people seeking treatment for teeth grinding, with stress believed to be the cause of the problem.

Some people were seeking treatment for fractured cusps, where the pointed chewing surface of the tooth was broken off from grinding.

"There's significantly more patients coming through with that," Batchelor said. "You can't stop it if it's something that's coming from an internal thing."

Dentists were working more closely with counsellors and family doctors to support stressed patients, she said.

The earthquakes had also seen dental work become less of a priority for some families.

"There's so many other things to worry about. A lot of people are possibly leaving things more until there's an issue," she said.

For elderly people, getting across town to their dentist had become a challenge, and more dentists were now taking the time to go to them, such as visiting rest homes to check on patients with dentures.

Batchelor said the region's dentists had been stressed since the quakes, with many losing their premises in the February 2011 quake.

Many were still working out of temporary premises or sharing space with other practitioners.

Others were worried about losing the premises they had. A Rangiora dental clinic was forced to move at short notice in March because its building was deemed to be quake-prone, she said.

World-renowned dentistry expert Professor Ray Bertolotti will speak to a group of Canterbury dentists today about alternative treatments.

Bertolotti, a clinical professor of biomaterial science at the University of California, is donating all proceeds, more than $18,000, to the Canterbury NZDA.

Batchelor said the branch would use the money to fund the Great Dental Day Out, an annual continuing education event for Canterbury dentists.

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