Can COVID cause ear and jaw pain? Is COVID jaw pain cause for concern? The COVID-19 infection has a long list of signs and symptoms. There's been some understandable confusion as that list has evolved with new information, new variants, and other factors such as the vaccines. It's hard to get a clear answer.
Even if COVID is not directly responsible for your jaw pain, there may still be a connection. There's no denying that the pandemic has brought on an immense amount of stress, and stress has its own set of side effects. There's a clear, well-documented link between mental health and physical health, including oral health. "There’s effectively an epidemic of jaw muscle pain in the country right now because of COVID," Dr. Mark Drangsholt, chair of the Department of Oral Medicine at the University of Washington’s School of Dentistry tells MarketWatch. Understanding the connection and how to treat it can offer both peace of mind and pain relief.
Does COVID-19 Cause Jaw Pain?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer a list of common COVID-19 symptoms:
- Fever or chills
- Sore throat
- New loss of smell or taste
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Congestion or runny nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Nausea or vomiting
The CDC acknowledges that the list doesn't include all possible symptoms, because research is constantly evolving, as is the virus. At this point in time, jaw pain is not considered a direct side effect of COVID. However, COVID is a very new disease, and experts are quick to admit that the understanding of its symptoms and effects, especially with regards to long COVID, is still evolving.
Bruxism, TMJ Disorders, and Covid Patients
Bruxism and temporomandibular joint disorders aren't generally linked with infectious diseases, but they are strongly associated with stress. This leads experts to speculate that the anxiety and stress of having COVID and undergoing treatment for it could trigger teeth grinding and jaw clenching behaviors, which could lead to jaw pain. For example, some COVID-19 patients struggle with breathing difficulties and shortness of breath. This can lead to excessive mouth breathing. Mouth breathing is both physically and mentally stressful, which could set the stage for bruxism. Jaw pain may even be a sign of stress for those who do not have COVID. The stress of the virus and the many unknowns that accompany it is enough to trigger teeth grinding and jaw clenching.
How Does Pandemic Stress Cause Jaw Pain?
With the potential for health threats, economic uncertainty, social isolation, and changes in routine, COVID has certainly created a stressful situation for virtually everyone as they work to navigate the pandemic period. As Johns Hopkins Medicine indicates: "Oral health specialists often point to too much stress and certain personality types as causes of bruxism. Bruxism often affects people with nervous tension, such as anger, pain, or frustration."
With those words in mind, it should come as no surprise that it is not just people diagnosed with COVID who are at higher risk for COVID jaw pain. While there might not be a direct link between COVID and jaw pain, there is evidence that points to an indirect link between increased stress rates among populations during the pandemic and higher rates of teeth grinding and jaw pain. A study conducted on Israeli and Polish populations found, “The aggravation of the psychoemotional status caused by the Coronavirus pandemic can result in bruxism and TMD symptoms intensification and thus lead to increased orofacial pain”. Comments from dentists in the United States all suggest that pandemic stress is causing jaw pain and taking a toll on the oral health of people around the world.
How Do You Treat Jaw Pain?
As Healthline reports, seeking treatment for jaw pain is an important step on your wellness journey. The right treatment will depend on the cause of your pain, but there are plenty of options, and a multifaceted approach often works best:
- Therapies and treatments to address stress and anxiety are often beneficial.
- Investing in a custom-fit mouth guard helps protect teeth from the effects of grinding.
- Receiving Botox injections can weaken the masseter muscles and relax the jaw, but the injections must be repeated every few months.
- Taking medications can relax jaw muscles and reduce pain or anxiety.
- Physical therapy exercises and jaw massages may offer relief.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback can help some people break the habit of grinding and clenching.
- Seeing a dentist for information and treatment for TMJ disorders can be useful.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Bruxism and Temporomandibular Disorders
Teeth grinding and jaw clenching are the hallmarks of stress-related bruxism. However, there are other common symptoms:
- Face or neck pain
- Jaw muscle pain or spasm
- Tooth pain or sensitivity
- Damage to teeth or dental work
- Sleep disruption
If the jaw joint is overworked by stress-related bruxism, a TMJ disorder may develop. TMJ pain may include the following:
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw or one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Aching facial pain
- Aching in or around the ear
- Difficulty chewing or painful chewing
- Locking or clicking of the jaw joint
COVID and Jaw Pain - What’s the Link?
Although there may be little evidence that a COVID infection is directly responsible for jaw pain, it seems likely that the stress of dealing with the pandemic is responsible for increased jaw pain. If stress-related bruxism is causing you to grind your teeth, a quality night guard from Pro Teeth Guard could be part of your solution. Pro Teeth Guard offers custom-fit mouthguards online for an affordable price. Our night guards are made in a dental lab using professional materials and processes. This is effectively the mouthguard you’d receive from a dentist.
- Buchwald, E. (2020). The weirdest sign of COVID-19 fatigue? More Americans are grinding their teeth. MarketWatch. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/covid-stress-is...
- CDC Writing Staff. (2021). Symptoms of covid-19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptom...
- Emodi-Perlman, A., Eli, I., Smardz, J., Uziel, N., Wieckiewicz, G., Gilon, E., Grychowska, N., & Wieckiewicz, M. (2020). Temporomandibular Disorders and Bruxism Outbreak as a Possible Factor of Orofacial Pain Worsening during the COVID-19 Pandemic-Concomitant Research in Two Countries. Journal of clinical medicine, 9(10), 3250. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9103250
- Johns Hopkins Medicine Writing Staff. (n.d.). Bruxism. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions...
- Schimelpfening, N. (2020). Teeth grinding, facial pain have increased due To COVID-19 Stress. Healthline. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/teeth-grin...
- Widmer, S., & Leyden, J. (2021). Dentists say teeth grinding is surging during COVID-19 pandemic. ABC news. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://abcnews.go.com/Health/dentists-teeth-grin...