Israeli Researchers Find Social Media Can Lead to Jaw Pain

Excessive smartphone use and stress-related symptoms are linked according to a new study by Tel Aviv University. Chart courtesy of Tel Aviv University press release.

If you’re having trouble sleeping soundly or experience unexplained jaw pain, social media may be the cause—or at least, the stress and anxiety caused by social media. Israeli researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) on Sunday announced findings from a study showing a link between excessive use of smartphones with enabled surfing on social apps and waking up during the night, teeth grinding and jaw pain.

“While the smartphone revolution has many advantages in terms of the accessibility and availability of information, the desire to be updated on every new post that appears on social media or every new article published on this or that site, and the need to be constantly available, creates feelings of stress and anxiety,” researcher Dr. Pessia Friedman-Rubin was quoted as saying in a TAU press release on the study.

She said the study linked “excessive” smartphone use with various ailments including facial and jaw pain and night wakings, which are “physical symptoms that are often the result of stress and anxiety and which may even lead to physical injury such as dental erosion and joint damage.” The study noted that use of smartphones at night is another factor in the jaw pain and teeth-grinding symptoms.

A key factor in this research is a special subset of the Jewish population: ultra-Orthodox Jews. This religious group is particularly careful around internet usage and as a result most of them use a “kosher” phone that does not have internet access—making them a solid base case to compare with secular smartphone users who are more likely to use their phones online.

The researchers looked at 600 participants in the study—a mix of secular people and ultra-Orthodox Jews—and asked them questions related to overuse of a phone, including stress levels and the respondents’ felt need to be available to their cell phones.

The results, according to the TAU press release, “were clear”. Half of the secular persons felt moderate-to-high stress caused by the cell phone and 45% felt a similar level need to be available to the phone, contrasted with just 22% of the ultra-Orthodox who felt such levels of stress and 20% who sensed such a need to be available to the phone.

The physical impacts were similar: 45% of secular participants reported either daytime (24%) or nighttime (21%) teeth grinding and 29% said they had jaw pain. Roughly 14% of the ultra-Orthodox reported each of those symptoms. Meanwhile, 54% of the secular participants reported moderate-to-high levels of waking up during the night—while just 20% of ultra-Orthodox listed that problem.

Dr. Friedman-Rubin and fellow researcher Professor Ilana Eli were quoted in the press release as saying that: “In today’s day and age people live with a sense of

FOMO (fear of missing out) and so they want to stay constantly updated and know ‘what’s new’ every moment. This need naturally creates a growing dependence on cell phones, which leads to feelings of stress and anxiety—‘someone might write something on social media and I’ll miss it and not be in the loop.’”

The study, which will be published in the journal Quintessence International, was conducted by Tel Aviv University’s Maurice and Gabriela Goldschleger School of

Dental Medicine as part of Dr. Yitzhak Hochhauser’s dissertation. The study was led by Dr. Alona Amudi-Perlman, Dr. Friedman-Rubin, Prof. Eli, and Prof. Ephraim Winocur.

Despite the study results, technology itself isn’t the enemy, according to Dr. Friedman-Rubin. She said in the press release, “We are of course in favor of technological progress, but as with everything in life, the excessive use of smartphones can lead to negative symptoms, and it is important that the public be aware of the consequences it has on the body and mind.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, March 14, 2021)

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