Your Car Accident Can Cause TMJ
Let’s say that you are in a car accident. You ache, perhaps in your neck area, and have headaches. Then, after a day or so, you notice an odd sensation: your jaw hurts. Could this be related to your accident? You don’t recall specifically hitting your jaw in the crash. But the answer is yes—jaw injuries, and specifically temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ disorder, is a well known injury that can be brought on by the impact of an accident, particularly a car accident.
What is the TMJ?
Your TMJ is what connects your lower jaw to the rest of your skull. It lifts your jaw up, and pushes it down, so you can perform the basic functions of your mouth—chewing, yawning, or talking. Unlike many joints, your TMJ is very complex and delicate—unlike so many joints, your jaw moves in almost every single direction, to some extent.
In that way, your TMJ is a ligament—it is connecting the bones of your skull to the bone of your jaw, and just like any other ligaments in your body can get torn, sprained or strained, so too can the ligaments on your jaw.
Do You Have TMJ?
Typical symptoms of TMJ include things like dull pain in the area just in front of your ear on the side of your face, pain in the ear itself, headaches, difficulty chewing harder foods, or difficulty moving the jaw. More severe cases can even cause neck pain or pain in the teeth.
How Does TMJ Disorder Happen in a Car Accident?
At first, it may seem odd that a TMJ can be injured in a car accident. But think of it logically—when you are hit from behind, your head is whipped backwards forcefully.
As your head is pushed backwards, your lower jaw is jutting out. The combination of your head being pushed backwards by the force of the rear end collision, causes the head to pull on the ligaments holding your jaw, stressing those ligaments, as the ligaments fight to hold your jaw to your skull which is now being propelled backwards.
By some estimates, about a third of people who suffer whiplash type injuries, will also develop TMJ. Making things worse, even those who didn’t appear to have TMJ disorder right after an accident, developed TMJ at a higher rate in the year after the accident, than those who were in a control group.
Diagnosis and Treatment
TMJ can be seen on scans, but traditional X-rats like the ones given in hospital emergency rooms, may not show TMJ disorder, as ligaments don’t show up on these kinds of X-Rays.
It is important to get medical help immediately when and if you start to experience the symptoms of TMJ disorder. The relationship between the accident and the onset of TMJ is something many Defendants will contest, and if you want to get better, as well as demonstrate that the accident has caused your TMJ disorder, immediate medical attention is vital.
Injuries to your jaw, ear, neck or back in a car accident? Call the Knoxville car accident lawyers at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, for help today.