Anxiety and Mouth, Jaw, Teeth, Ear, Sinus Pain

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated April 7, 2022

mouth jaw teeth ear and sinus pain image

Mouth, Jaw, Teeth, Ear, and Sinus Pain are common anxiety disorder symptoms, including anxiety and panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and others.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and mouth, jaw, teeth, ear, and sinus pain.

Common Symptom Descriptions

  • Your mouth (inside or outside), jaw, teeth, ears, or sinuses feel sore, pressured, full, or unusually painful.
  • You feel odd aches and pains in your mouth, jaw, teeth, ears, or sinuses.
  • You have erratic shooting pains in your mouth, jaw, teeth, ears, or sinus cavities.
  • Your medical examinations and tests have found no medical cause for your symptoms, yet you are getting unusual pain, pressures, fullness, or sharp, stabbing pain in your mouth, jaw, teeth, ears, or sinuses.

This symptom can occur in any of these areas individually or at the same time.

This symptom has no visual appearance of damage or causes any noticeable physical change in your mouth, jaw, teeth, ears, or sinus cavities.

This symptom can:

  • Occur occasionally, frequently, or persistently.
  • Precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety symptoms or occur by itself.
  • Precede, accompany, or follow a period of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and stress, or occur "out of the blue" and for no reason.
  • Range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe.
  • Come in waves where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.
  • Change from day to day, moment to moment, or remain as a constant background during your struggle with anxiety disorder.

All the above combinations and variations are common.

This symptom can seem more noticeable when undistracted, resting, trying to sleep, or when waking up.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test, Anxiety Disorder Test, or Hyperstimulation Test.

The higher the rating, the more likely anxiety could be contributing to or causing your anxiety symptoms, including feeling like impending doom symptoms.

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Causes

Medical Advisory

Talk to your doctor about all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms as some medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms.

Additional Medical Advisory Information.

1. The Stress Response (acute stress)

Anxious behavior, such as worry, activates the stress response, causing many body-wide changes that give the body an emergency “boost” of energy and resources when we believe we could be in danger.[1][2]

Visit our “Stress Response” article for more information about its many changes.

Some of these changes include:

  • Stimulates the nervous system, increasing nervous system activity.
  • Tightens muscles to increase the body’s resilience to damage.
  • Suppresses the body’s immune system so that most of the body’s resources are readied for emergency action (to fight or flee).
  • Suppresses digestion so that most of the body’s resources are readied for emergency action.
  • Suppresses salivation to aid in suppressing digestion.

To name a few.

The higher the degree of the stress response, the more dramatic the changes.

Since stress responses push the body beyond its balance point, stress responses stress the body. As such, anxiety stresses the body.

Stress is a common cause of random pain in the mouth, jaw, teeth, ears, and sinus cavities. For instance:

  • Tightened mouth and jaw muscles can cause pain in the mouth and jaw, which can radiate to other parts of the face, including the ears and sinuses.
  • Many people clench their mouth, jaw, or teeth when stressed. Chronically clenched muscles can cause pain in the mouth, jaw, teeth, ears, and sinuses.
  • A highly stimulated nervous system can overly stimulate nerve endings in the mouth and teeth, causing phantom pain in the mouth and teeth, which can radiate to the jaw, ear canals, and sinuses.

To name a few.

Acute stress, such as from anxious behavior, is a common cause of random pains in the mouth, jaw, teeth, ears, and sinus cavities.

2. Hyperstimulation (chronic stress)

Frequent activation of the stress response, such as from overly anxious behavior, can create a state of semi-stress response readiness, we call “stress-response hyperstimulation” since stress hormones are powerful stimulants.[3][4]

Hyperstimulation can dramatically affect the body.

Visit our “Hyperstimulation” article for more information about the many ways hyperstimulation can affect the body and how we feel.

Just as acute stress can cause pain in the mouth, jaw, teeth, ears, and sinus cavities, chronic stress can, as well, but even more so.[5] For instance:

  • Chronic stress can cause chronic muscle tension, leading to ongoing pain in the mouth, jaw, teeth, ears, and sinuses.
  • A chronically stimulated nervous system can cause issues with phantom pain, including in the mouth, jaw, teeth, ears, and sinuses.
  • Chronic suppression of the digestive system can cause stomach and intestinal upset, causing radiating pain into the face, including the mouth, jaw, teeth, and ears.
  • Chronic suppression of the immune system can allow intruders to grow, leading to infections in the mouth, causing radiating pain throughout the face.
  • Chronic stress can cause the nervous system to act erratically, causing phantom pain anywhere on or in the body, including the mouth, jaw, teeth, ears, and sinuses.
  • Elevated cortisol, the body’s most powerful stress hormone, has been shown to cause gingivitis, which can cause pain in the mouth and teeth.[6]

Again, to name a few.

Furthermore, hyperstimulation can cause the nervous system to act erratically, causing phantom pains anywhere on or in the body, including the face, mouth, jaw, teeth, ears, and sinuses.

Chronic stress (hyperstimulation) is a common cause of odd aches and pains anywhere on or in the body, including in the face, mouth, teeth, ears, and sinuses.

Hyperstimulation is a common cause of odd aches and pains anywhere on or in the body.

3. Behavior

As mentioned, many people clench their jaw and teeth when anxious. Sometimes it’s due to muscle tension, and other times because of a habit.

Chronic teeth clenching can cause pain in the mouth, jaw, and teeth, which can radiate to the ears and sinuses.

Clenching teeth is a common cause of mouth, jaw, teeth, ear, and sinus pain.

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Other Factors

Other factors can create stress and cause anxiety-like symptoms, as well as aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, including:

Select the relevant link for more information.

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Treatment

When this symptom is caused or aggravated by other factors, addressing those factors can reduce and eliminate it.

When this symptom is caused by anxious behavior and active stress response, ending the stress response will end its changes. This symptom should subside as your body recovers from the active stress response.

Keep in mind it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When this symptom is caused by hyperstimulation (chronic stress), eliminating hyperstimulation will end this anxiety symptom.

You can eliminate hyperstimulation by:

  • Reducing stress.
  • Containing anxious behavior (since anxiety creates stress).
  • Regular deep relaxation.
  • Avoiding stimulants.
  • Regular light to moderate exercise.
  • Getting regular good sleep.
  • Eating a healthy diet of whole and natural foods.
  • Passively accepting your symptoms until they subside.
  • Being patient as your body recovers.

Visit our “60 Natural Ways To Reduce Stress” article for more ways to reduce stress.

Recovery Support members can read chapter 14 for many more ways to reduce stress, many natural ways to shut off active stress responses, and many other anxiety disorder recovery strategies.

As the body recovers from hyperstimulation, it stops sending symptoms, including this one.

Symptoms of chronic stress subside as the body regains its normal, non-hyperstimulated health.

However, eliminating hyperstimulation can take much longer than most people think, causing symptoms to linger longer than expected.

As long as the body is even slightly hyperstimulated, it can present symptoms of any type, number, intensity, duration, frequency, and at any time, including this one.

Even so, since mouth, jaw, teeth, ear, and sinus pain are common symptoms of stress, including anxiety-caused stress, it's harmless and needn't be a cause for concern. It will subside when unhealthy stress has been eliminated and the body has had sufficient time to recover and stabilize. Therefore, there is no reason to worry about it.

Anxiety symptoms often linger because:

  • The body is still being stressed (from stressful circumstances or anxious behavior).
  • Your stress hasn't diminished enough or for long enough.
  • Your body hasn't completed its recovery work.

Addressing the reason for lingering symptoms will allow the body to recover.

Most often, lingering anxiety symptoms ONLY remain because of the above reasons. They AREN'T a sign of a medical problem. This is especially true if you have had your symptoms evaluated by your doctor, and they have been solely attributed to anxiety or stress.

Chronic anxiety symptoms subside when hyperstimulation is eliminated. As the body recovers and stabilizes, all chronic anxiety symptoms will slowly diminish and eventually disappear.

Since worrying and becoming upset about anxiety symptoms stress the body, these behaviors can interfere with recovery.

Passively accepting your symptoms – allowing them to persist without reacting to, resisting, worrying about, or fighting them – while doing your recovery work will cause their cessation in time.

Acceptance, practice, and patience are key to recovery.

Since the body can take a long time to recover from hyperstimulation, it's best to faithfully work at your recovery despite the lack of apparent progress.

However, if you persevere with your recovery work, you will succeed.

You also have to do your recovery work FIRST before your body can recover. The cumulative effects of your recovery work will produce results down the road. And the body's stimulation has to diminish before symptoms can subside.

Eliminating hyperstimulation will bring results in time!

Remember: Focusing on your sensations and symptoms makes them more pronounced. If you'd like to lessen their impact, learn to focus your attention elsewhere through distraction, enjoying your hobbies, undertaking pleasing and calming activities, regular deep relaxation, and by recalling pleasant memories or experiences.

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Short-term strategies

Even though eliminating stress and chronic stress (hyperstimulation) will eliminate this symptom, some people have found the following strategies helpful.

However, keep in mind that each person can have a unique symptom experience since each person is somewhat physically, chemically, psychologically, and emotionally unique. What might work for one person might not for another.

  • Reduce stress – Since all anxiety symptoms are stress-related, reducing stress can alleviate this symptom. There are many ways to reduce stress. You can read many natural stress reduction strategies in Chapter 14.
  • Regular good sleep – Getting good sleep each night (6.5 to 8 hours per night) can significantly reduce stress, which can improve all anxiety symptoms, including mouth, jaw, teeth, and sinus pain.
  • Regular deep relaxation – Regular deep relaxation is a great way to reduce stress and overall stimulation. As stress and stimulation diminish, so will anxiety symptoms, including this one.
  • Regular light to moderate exercise – Regular exercise is proven to reduce stress and improve stress symptoms. However, we don’t recommend strenuous exercise since it stresses the body.
  • Deliberately unclenching your teeth and relaxing your jaw – Can reduce this symptom. Making a conscious effort will alert you to this habit and help you break it, reducing and eliminating this symptom over time.

Again, there are many natural and practical ways to reduce stress. Recovery Support members can read chapters 4 and 14 for more ideas.

Therapy

Unidentified and unaddressed underlying factors cause issues with anxiety. As such, they are the primary reason why anxiety symptoms persist.[7][8][9]

Addressing your underlying factors (Level Two recovery) is most important if you want lasting success.

Addressing Level Two recovery can help you:

  • Contain anxious behavior.
  • Become unafraid of anxiety symptoms and the strong feelings of anxiety.
  • End anxiety symptoms.
  • Successfully address the underlying factors that so often cause issues with anxiety.
  • End what can feel like out-of-control worry.

All our recommended anxiety therapists have had anxiety disorder and overcame it. Their personal experience with anxiety disorder and their Master's Degree and above professional training gives them insight other therapists don't have.

If you want to achieve lasting success over anxiety disorder, any one of our recommended therapists would be a good choice.

Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to treat anxiety disorder.

Typically, working with an experienced therapist is the only way to overcome stubborn anxiety.

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Prevalence

In an online poll we conducted, 60 percent of respondents said they had mouth, jaw, teeth, ear, and sinus pain as anxiety symptoms.

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The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our anxiety disorders signs and symptoms page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including mouth, jaw, teeth, ear, and sinus pain symptoms.

References

1. Berczi, Istvan. “Walter Cannon's ‘Fight or Flight Response’ - ‘Acute Stress Response.’” Walter Cannon's "Fight or Flight Response"  - "Acute Stress Response", 2017.

2. Godoy, Livea, et al. "A Comprehensive Overview on Stress Neurobiology: Basic Concepts and Clinical Implications." Frontiers In Behavioral Neuroscience, 3, July 2018.

3. Elbers, Jorina, et al. "Wired for Threat: Clinical Features of Nervous System Dysregulation in 80 Children." Pediatric Neurology, Dec 2018.

4. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015.

5. AHMAD, Asma Hayati, and Rahimah ZAKARIA. “Pain In Times Of Stress.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2015.

6. Gunepin, Mathieu, et al. "Impact of chronic stress on periodontal health." Journal of Oral Medicine and Oral Surgery, 25 May 2018.

7. Hofmann, Stefan G., et al. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2012.

8. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017.

9. DISCLAIMER: Because each body is somewhat chemically unique, and because each person will have a unique mix of symptoms and underlying factors, recovery results may vary. Variances can occur for many reasons, including due to the severity of the condition, the ability of the person to apply the recovery concepts, and the commitment to making behavioral change.