MASKS & TMJ
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recommendation that everyone wear a cloth face-covering mask in public to slow the spread of coronavirus. COVID-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that get into the air when we cough, sneeze or even laugh or talk. Wearing a mask also can help contain the droplets you produce.
Many of us hold our faces with more tension or with our chin forward to hold our masks in place which can increase or even create symptoms of TMJ. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction is pain and compromised movement of the jaw joint and the surrounding muscles.
Here are some tips to avoid mask pains and aches:
Trust the elastic on your mask and let it do the work of holding your mask in place, not your jaw! Relax your face, let your tongue rest of the roof of your mouth, teeth slightly apart. If your mask slips while you are in this position, take it as a sign that you need to find one with a better fit.
An ill-fitting mask can also cause headaches by tugging on your ears. This can be caused by the auriculotemporal nerve which runs just in front and above the ear into the scalp. Try finding a mask with longer elastics or try extenders for glasses or goggles. Those will eliminate ear loops all together.
Having your nose covered may prompt you to breathe through your mouth rather than your nose. Breathing through your mouth causes you to hold it slightly open which leads to tension and pain. Breathing through your nose is not only preformed in a more relaxed position, but also helps your body get more oxygen with each breath which expands your blood vessels and soothes muscle tissue.
- Myth: The mask only protects others, not the wearer.
Truth: Masks actually protect both the wearer and others around them. The No. 1 goal of masks is to contain people’s germs and prevent them from reaching others.
- Myth: Masks with exhalation valves are more comfortable and offer the same amount of protection.
Truth: Masks with exhalation valves are not nearly as safe and do not limit the spread of COVID-19. Exhalation valves allow germs/droplets to be expelled into the air around you, putting others at risk.
- Myth: Wearing a mask causes a dangerous build-up of carbon dioxide if worn for long periods of time.
Truth: There is no science supporting this. Wearing a mask is a safe practice.
Health care workers have been wearing masks for prolonged periods of time – many, many hours for longer surgeries and things like that without incident. That’s because CO2 particles are extremely small, unlike viral loads, and can pass through masks. That’s even the case for a higher protection mask like an N95.
- Myth: I’m wearing a mask, so I don’t need to social distance.
Truth: Social distancing AND mask wearing is the most effective combination in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Wearing a mask limits droplet spread to about one foot. But that doesn’t eliminate it altogether. Additionally, all of the scientific data and recommendations assume masks are being worn properly by everyone, which is certainly not the case.
WHO YOU PROTECT BY WEARING A MASK
By wearing a mask, you are protecting yourself and further protecting those who are at a higher risk of developing severe illness, including people who are or have:
- Lung disease
- Serious Heart conditions
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Elderly adults over 65
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
WHAT KIND OF MASK SHOULD YOU WEAR
The gold standard N-95 mask is 95% effective at keeping the wearer free of inhaling viral particles. These masks are still best reserved for front-line workers in high risk settings where aerosols of viral particles occur. Surgical masks are less effective and cloth face coverings even less so in protecting the wearer. However even a 50% reduction in viral transmission is statistically important.
For the general public, the reason for wearing a facial covering is to help protect others from you when you cough, sneeze or even talk and spray viral droplets into the air. Many people who become infected can unknowingly spread the COVID-19 virus because they have few or no symptoms. So wearing a mask is showing respect for others and is your way of helping lessen the spread of the disease. It is important that the mask not be so thick as to make breathing through them completely uncomfortable. Filter inserts are probably not necessary and may make the masks more uncomfortable.
HOW TO WEAR A MASK PROPERLY
Cloth face coverings should-
- fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- be secured with ties or ear loops
- include multiple layers of fabric
- allow for breathing without restriction
- be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
Do NOT touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing the mask and wash your hands immediately after mask removal.
WHO SHOULDN’T WEAR A MASK
Cloth face coverings should NOT be placed on:
- Young children under age 2
- Anyone who has trouble breathing
- Anyone who unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance·