senior woman holding her jaw in painTo some extent, the entire world is struggling with long COVID. No, we’re not talking about the persistent symptoms that many people struggle with for months, even years, after their initial COVID infection. We’re talking about the mere fact that the COVID pandemic has lasted more than two years, causing profound changes in the way we live, work, and play. 

There are many potential side effects you might experience due to your own experiences in the pandemic. One that we are noticing in many of our patients is jaw pain. Here are three common reasons you might have developed jaw pain during the pandemic. 

Pandemic Stress

One of the most widespread impacts of the pandemic has been a general increase in everyone’s stress levels. Many of the things that used to be simple and straightforward have become much more complicated. Should you wear a mask or not? Should you even go? How big should your social bubble be? Then, no matter which decision you make, it seems that there will be a layer of politics you have to deal with from friends and family about the choice you made. Plus, there’s the time spent worrying about those you know who have gotten sick or are at high risk, and you worry they might get sick. It’s a lot of stress, and it’s been going on every day for more than two years now. 

Some people have been better at finding ways to deal with stress during the pandemic than others. For many people, the stress builds up and manifests in muscle tension. Often, this muscle tension turns into jaw clenching and grinding. This can not only damage your teeth, leading to an increased need for restorative dentistry, but it can also cause muscle tension and soreness, joint damage, and joint displacement. 

Put together, these effects can turn into temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or TMD). This constellation of joint disorders can cause numerous symptoms related to dysfunction. Jaw pain is one of the most common, but you might also experience:

  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Toothaches
  • Jaw popping and clicking
  • Irregular or limited jaw motion
  • A bite that feels off
  • Earache
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Ear fullness

As well as many other symptoms. Sometimes jaw pain is a warning sign, and we might be able to head off the condition by intervening now. Other times, you might have developed other symptoms. Fortunately, you could see these symptoms resolve over a few weeks or months with treatment. Proper treatment can lead to long-term, even permanent, relief. 

Poor Work Posture

Before the pandemic, the ability to work from home was reserved for the lucky few. You probably saw many of those fliers or got the emails promising, “Earn $$$ from home.” You might even have been tempted to reach out about it. However, during the pandemic, working from home suddenly became a reality for many of us. Not all of us considered ourselves lucky. 

Many people didn’t have their homes prepared for working at home. As a result, people worked in any number of configurations that were bad for your posture. Maybe you had a laptop and worked from the couch or even your bed. Maybe you had a desktop, but the height of your desk and chair weren’t right for you. Either way, you were suddenly spending at least eight hours a day sitting with a terrible posture, which isn’t good for your back or jaw. 

Pushing your head forward or turning it down to work on your computer stresses your muscles. The spine can’t support as much of the head’s weight in this position. This means that the muscles have to step up and take more of the burden. 

As the largest muscles in your head, your jaw muscles end up bearing a lot of that burden, and they do it by pulling up on your jaw. This clenches your jaw together for stability, but it can also strain the muscles and the joints, leading to jaw pain and contributing to your risk of TMJ. 

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing stops at night. It stops long enough that your brain has to wake up just enough to resume breathing. This is not necessarily enough for you to wake up consciously, but it’s enough to disrupt your sleep. 

Although we don’t know exactly how common, sleep apnea is a relatively common condition because 80-90% of people with sleep apnea are undiagnosed. Most people with the condition have obstructive sleep apnea, in which your airway collapses, cutting off your access to air. One of your body’s responses to this might be clenching your teeth to try to hold your airway open. Your jaw is the main bony support for your airway. In fact, one powerful sleep apnea treatment uses an oral appliance that changes your jaw position to keep your airway open. Clenching your jaw repeatedly overnight can cause or worsen TMJ and make you wake up with a sore jaw in the morning. 

Obstructive sleep apnea worsens if you don’t get good exercise and/or are overweight. During the pandemic, many had their workout routines disrupted. Combined with excess snacking because you’re working from home, this may have increased your susceptibility to sleep apnea.

Relief from Jaw Pain in Aberdeen

If you are suffering from jaw pain in Aberdeen, Pinehurst, Sand Hills, or the surrounding area, let TMJ dentist Dr. Mandy Grimshaw help. She will diagnose your condition thoroughly to ensure your treatment will give you the best results. 

Please call (910) 692-4450 or use our online form today to request an appointment at Kuhn dental Associates in Aberdeen, NC.