Since 2020 and the beginning of COVID-19, wearing a face mask has become a part of everyday life for many people. However, wearing a mask over the nose and mouth has caused some dentists to be concerned about possible adverse effects. Before COVID-19, as many as 70% of the population had one or more TMJ dysfunction symptoms. Most cases resolve without seeking any treatment; however, since 2020, many dentists have seen an increase in patients pursuing relief from more intense symptoms that can affect daily life. Some of the cases are presumed to be linked to wearing face masks. Find out more about TMJ and masks below.
If you have frequent headaches or jaw pain, schedule an appointment at Trident Dental for a comprehensive oral examination and evaluation of the health of your temporomandibular joint.
4 Ways Wearing a Mask Can Contribute to TMJ Symptoms
COVID-19 and changes, such as wearing masks, have significantly stressed most people’s lives. The stress and other changes have increased the numbers and intensity of TMJ cases. Here are four ways that wearing a mask can contribute to TMJ:
Stress-induced teeth grinding and clenching. We are designed to have our lower jaw hang loosely and comfortably away from the upper jaw. This creates a space between our teeth, offering protection for our teeth, jaw muscles, and the temporomandibular joint. Ordinarily, your teeth only contact each other for a few minutes daily. However, stress causes teeth to come together when clenched during the day or grinding while sleeping.
Mouth-breathing. Wearing a mask can make you feel like you need more air. This often leads to mouth breathing, which can cause several dental problems, such as an increased risk for cavities and gum disease. Mouth breathing causes your jaw muscles to work harder and fatigue more easily, resulting in TMJ strain, tightness, and pain.
Changes in jaw position and movements. Wearing a mask, especially one that does not fit well, can cause you to make unnatural jaw movements throughout the day. You will speak differently, using jaw muscles in ways that place them under more tension. These tense muscles attach to the TMJ and thus place more stress on the joint disk and surrounding tissues. Studies have shown that people wearing a mask move their jaws in an awkward forward and downward movement to keep the mask in position. This study found that these repetitive jaw movements increased the occurrence of TMJ symptoms.
Strain on the trigeminal nerves. The trigeminal nerve is a large nerve that sends sensations, such as touch, pain, and temperature, from your face to your brain. The headaches that are common with wearing a mask may be due to wearing a mask with excessively tight ear loops. This can affect the trigeminal nerve and possibly lead to a tension headache.
Schedule Appointment if You Have TMJ/Mask Symptoms
Contact us at Trident Dental if you have noticed changes in your oral health since COVID-19. We can help you avoid the dental issues that can arise from prolonged mask-wearing. Headaches, jaw fatigue and pain, and dry mouth can have long-term effects on your teeth and gums. Our team of oral health professionals can help you maintain a healthy and bright smile during this challenging time.