A new study carried out at Tel Aviv University’s Maurice and Gabriela Goldschleger School of Dental Medicine has found that the excessive use of smartphones and social media can lead to problems sleeping, drowsiness and fatigue during the day, teeth-grinding, and pain in the mouth muscles and jaws.
The study was conducted as part of Dr. Yitzhak Hochhauser’s dissertation and was led by Dr. Alona Amudi-Perlman, Dr. Pessia Friedman-Rubin, Prof. Ilana Eli, and Prof. Ephraim Winocur.
Dr. Friedman-Rubin and Prof. Eli explained 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.'”
In the study, the researchers compared different groups, from a total of about 600 participants: a group of secular people, smartphone users, and a group of ultra-Orthodox people, most of whom use a “kosher” phone without an Internet connection.
Study respondents were asked to address a number of aspects that typify overuse of the phone, including feelings of stress and tension throughout the day, a tendency to wake up at night, a need to be available to the cell phone, teeth-grinding and jaw pain.
The findings of the study are clear: 54% of secular smartphone users have a moderate to high incidence of night wakings, compared with only 20% among the ultra-Orthodox.
In addition, 50% of the secular respondents feel a moderate to high level of stress due to the cell phone, compared to only 22% among the ultra-Orthodox.
The disparities between the groups are also reflected in the question of how available they feel they need to be to their mobile devices – 45% of the secular respondents answered that they had a moderate to high need to be available to their phones, compared to only 20% in the ultra-Orthodox group.
These gaps are even more marked when examining damage to the chewing muscles and jaw joints: 45% of the secular group reported teeth-grinding, 24% during the day and 21% at night, and 29% of them said that they suffered pain in their jaw muscles.
In comparison, only 14% of the ultra-Orthodox described these symptoms. Some 13.5% reported teeth-grinding and 14% pain in the jaw muscles.
Among the factors that contribute to the development of muscle pain and the wearing down of the teeth are the use of cell phones during the nighttime and the stress caused by mobile devices.
Friedman-Rubin explained that despite the differences between the population groups regarding their social perceptions of what can affect the degree of stress they are under, the study was able to isolate the effect of smartphones and point to them as a source of anxiety.
“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,” she noted
“The current study has demonstrated a link between the excessive use of smartphones that enable surfing on social apps and a significant increase in night wakings, which lead to fatigue during the day, facial and jaw pain, tightness in the jaw during the day and teeth-grinding at night – 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,” she added.
“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,” she cautioned.