TMJ Injuries After A Car Accident

TMJ injuries can occur after an accident. TMJ Disorder is a potentially incapacitating condition that may be caused by variable things including automobile accidents. The condition may result in chronic pain in the face, jaw, neck and shoulders. People who suffer from it may also have chronic headaches and earaches, and even hearing loss.

One of the most common causes of TMJ is a motor vehicle accident. TMJ often results from whiplash injuries in rear-end collisions. When a vehicle is rear-ended, an occupant’s head is caused to fling forward and then violently backward, which may have forced the jaw open and caused added pressure to the joints on either side of the jaw. This extra pressure may cause TMJ in addition to whiplash injuries, which may also be caused if their jaws hit the dashboard or steering wheel, and airbag deploys.

When people suffer injuries to the TMJ joints, it can impact their whole faces because the joints are connected to the muscles and ligaments. There are numerous symptoms of TMJ that people should be aware of. TMJ may cause any of the following:

- Inability to open the mouth widely or pain when doing so

- Pain in the shoulders, neck or face when speaking, chewing or opening the mouth

- Difficulty with chewing or biting

- Popping or grating noises in the jaw

- Hearing loss, earaches or dizziness

- Facial swelling along the side of the face

- Jaw that locks

While the pain may be temporary in some people, it can last for years in others. Some people may not experience any symptoms of TMJ after an accident, so people can be unaware that they even suffered TMJ injuries until after their whiplash injuries diminish. If an individual is diagnosed with whiplash, they should ask their doctors to also check to see if they suffered from TMJ.

Other types of impact or trauma to the head and neck can cause TMJ symptoms, for example impact to the lower jaw can misalign, dislocate or break. If the side of the head receives impact, it can cause the temporalis muscle to contract. If it contracts, the tightening will lift the lower jaw and cause misalignment. The symptoms from this usually includes jaw pain and headaches.

Whenever an individual has to hold their mouth open for extended periods of time, it has the potential for stretching and straining the temporomandibular joint. This often occurs after extensive dental procedure or other surgery requiring general anesthesia when a breathing tube is inserted into the windpipe to maintain proper breathing during surgery.

Many people have other health problems that present with TMJ disorders, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, sleep disorders like sleep apnea or fibromyalgia, a painful condition that affects muscles and other soft tissues throughout the body.

If people are diagnosed with whiplash, they should ask their doctors to also check to see if they suffered from TMJ in their accidents. It is important for people to find out if they have TMJ when they experience the symptoms of it. Failing to properly treat the disorder may lead to additional long-term problems.


Co-authored with Lily Mai.

The information provided is for general knowledge and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this article and any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice.