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Teeth pay price of City's daily grind

THE CITY is abuzz, but not with the usual mutterings about an imminent multi-billion-pound merger, nor with rumours of a major bank set to go bust, writes Dan Gledhill. Instead, the distant hum is coming from the hordes of stressed-out bankers suffering from an epidemic of tooth-grinding afflicting the Square Mile.

Dentists are blaming the outbreak on chronic job insecurity in the financial services industry, after a year which has seen thousands of staff laid off.

Most of Martin Bell's patients at the Dental Surgery in the City's Corn Exchange work for City banks and he reckons that a high proportion of them are sufferers. "Many City people are doing it," he said. "It is usually triggered by stress and our patients tend to be very stressed-out."

Other City clinics also have appointment books crammed with the names of agonised "bruxers", as they are known to the industry. Demand for plastic "biteguards", which are inserted in the mouth to protect teeth, has soared.

Patrick Ethrington, a West London-based practitioner whose patient list is also drawn mainly from the City, said: "In the past, I would have prescribed one guard a year, but now demand is stretching to two a week. Bruxers tend to be high-achievers, living on the edge. People grind their teeth when they are under pressure, be it in the car, the gym or in front of the computer screen."

One of Ethrington's patients, a City barrister, has become such a noisy bruxer that his wife banishes him to the spare room at night. According to Ethrington, he is typical of high-fliers whose teeth pay the price of a successful career.

The guards, which are too disfiguring to wear publicly, are usually worn at night. However some sufferers are even unwilling to wear them in the dark, for "social" reasons, says Ethrington.