For the unforeseen future, people around the world have adopted wearing masks while out in public until the pandemic ends. Since mask-wearing has never been the norm in the US, many people have experienced unexplained side effects like headaches and jaw pain from wearing masks frequently. While many speculate that wearing a mask decreases your oxygen levels (it doesn’t), the actual cause of the pain is from the mask resting on the ears.

Find out what you can do to avoid headaches and jaw pain while wearing your mask and staying safe during the pandemic.

woman with attractive eyes and COVID-19 mask stands in a busy airport

Headaches From Wearing Masks

One of the top complaints of wearing a mask is getting a headache afterward. No, it’s not from a lack of oxygen. The headache is actually caused by the trigeminal nerve that branches from your brain, under the scalp and through the large muscle that spans the face. When you wear a mask and place the tight loops over your ears to hold it in place, the tightness yanks on the trigeminal nerves and its structures and results in a low-grade tension headache. The tension on the nerves travels through the nerves and tightens the tentorium memorable which is the plastic wrap like material that covers your brain. When you’re stressed, it tightens up, causing a headache.

Jaw Pain From Wearing Masks

Your jaw is located right next to your ear and the jaw joints connect the lower jaw to the brain. Every part connects with another. If you’re wearing an N95 mask, you can’t really move your jaw around openly like you could if you weren’t wearing it. The lack of movement can cause your jaw to tighten, which can result in jaw pain. The tighter your mask, the more jaw pain you can experience. The tightness of the mask combined with the tension already on your ears can cause both headaches and jaw pain.

What Can You Do?

We understand that wearing a mask can feel like an inconvenience but wearing one can save lives. If you’re experiencing headaches and jaw pain from your mask there are a few things you can try. 

First, try wearing a looser mask. Although a fabric mask doesn’t offer as much protection as an N95 mask, it will feel much more comfortable to wear and your jaw can move more easily.

You can also attach the loops to something that isn’t your ears. Wear a hat or a headband and attach buttons to it that you can attach your mask loops too. This can help take the pressure off your ears. 

If your symptoms still don’t resolve, there’s a possibility that you have a TMJ disorder and it’s causing your jaw pain and headaches. If you believe this is the case, please contact Rochester Advanced Dentistry to schedule a consultation for TMJ. Please call (248) 656-2020 to book an appointment with our TMJ dentists in Rochester to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan. Jaw pain and headache relief are just a few appointments away!