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A highly unknown complications of COVID-19 fatigue? TMJ disorders

One of most hardest part of the pandemic had been disruption in work and home lives which has led many Americans to anxiety, frustration, anger and stress leading to increase in TMJ disorders from “stress teeth grinding.

“As much as COVID is a pandemic TMJ issues are becoming an epidemic,” said Dr. Mona Stone, a well known oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Dallas area and owner of Stone Surgical Arts. 

Whereas before the pandemic she would see 1-3 TMJ disorder consults per day, now that number has tripled. Referral come from not only around the around but also around the world and social media given Dr. Stone’s social media influence in tiktok and Instagram.

When Stone evaluated the patients she evaluates not only physical but also psychological issues. For a lot of patient COVID stress has led to increase in night time teeth grinding and bruxism which then results in muscle spasms, mild to severe headaches, and TMJ joint issues.

Also, due to breathing issues, patients are also likely to hold improper posture which can cause a muscle imbalance and further jaw and neck muscle tension. 

Once different modalities like cone beam CT scan, MRIs among others are used to make the proper diagnosis a Treatment plan can be made available to patient. 

What can one do to help with TMJ pain prior to seeing a surgeon? 

Reducing stress is the best way to minimize jaw clenching and teeth grinding. Until that happens, there are things you can try at home to help loosen your jaw and alleviate the pain. For relief from jaw pain, try:

  • Avoiding jaw overuse by eating soft foods, cutting food into small pieces and not chewing gum
  • Hot or cold compresses applied directly to the jaw muscles
  • Massage by opening your mouth and gently rubbing the muscles near your ears
  • Pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or over-the-counter options
  • Stretching that includes head and neck stretches as well as holding your mouth open wide to stretch the jaw joint