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Car Collisions and TMJ Dysfunction

Car accidents are common in the US, as well as the city of Seattle. In the year 2019, there have been 11,092 road crashes in the city. Of this number, 192 were suspected of having resulted in severe injuries, while 886 had minor injuries.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than three million are injured in car accidents every year. Car collisions most often result in whiplash, which can cause serious injuries such as a TMJ dysfunction. If you have been involved in a car crash, you might need TMJ treatment.

What Is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury that results from the rapid back and forth motion of the head and the neck. It occurs mostly in car collisions. When the vehicle is hit from behind, the passenger’s head is whipped back. The muscles in the lower jaw experience a high amount of pressure, depending on the force of impact. It can also cause injuries in the disks between the bones of the neck, as well as in its ligaments, nerves, muscles, and tissues. In some severe cases, it can cause spinal injury.

People can also experience whiplash from contact sports activities, physical abuse, falls, and other physical trauma.

Symptoms of Whiplash and TMJ

If you have been involved in a car accident, it is a must that you observe your body for any signs of trauma and injury. The signs and symptoms usually become obvious within days after sustaining the injury. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Stiffness and neck pain
  • Severe neck pain with every movement
  • Headaches that start at the base of the skull
  • Shoulder pain
  • Tenderness in the upper back and arms
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of neck motion
  • Blurred vision
  • Memory problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Light sensitivity

Whiplash can also result in a TMJ or temporomandibular joint dysfunction. TMJ dysfunction occurs when there is a displacement of the discs in the jaw joint. In a study by the American Dental Association, it was found that one in three people who experienced whiplash is at risk of TMJ. However, most developed delayed TMJ symptoms. The symptoms of TMJ can include:

  • Tenderness in the jaw
  • Pain in either or both temporomandibular joints
  • Pain around or in the ear
  • Pain when chewing
  • Difficulty to open and close mouth
  • Clicking sound when chewing and opening or closing your mouth
  • Sensitive teeth

Why Is TMJ Often Overlooked in Car Accidents?

In a car collision, the body is subjected to a strong impact and various rapid movements. The body is pulled into several directions all at once. Most people believe that the head must experience severe trauma to develop a whiplash injury and damage your TMJ. Direct trauma is not necessary for a TMJ dysfunction to develop. The abnormal and violent movements brought about by the collision can cause the lower jaw to stretch and tear the ligaments in one or both TMJ.

Treatment of TMJ Dysfunction

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In some cases, the symptoms of a TMJ dysfunction will just go away. However, when the pain and symptoms persist, your doctor will recommend some medications and therapies which can be done in parallel.

Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories can relieve the pain brought by TMJ. Your doctor can also prescribe muscle relaxants to help relieve painful muscle spasms.

Physical therapy can be recommended to alleviate the pain and strengthen your jaw muscles.

You can also manage TMJ pain by doing the following lifestyle changes:

  • Eat a soft diet
  • Avoid biting your nails
  • Avoid chewing gums
  • Limit jaw movements
  • Practice good posture
  • Use a toothbrush with soft bristles
  • Use a water flosser instead of the regular floss

Discuss your condition with your dentist. Your dentist can recommend alternative dental care to help relieve your pain.

How Can Chiropractic Care Help Alleviate TMJ

Licensed chiropractors can help alleviate the tension in the spine, which can help relieve the pain brought about by TMJ. Chiropractic care can improve the victim’s situation through joint manipulation, which helps restore movement in the jaw.

Your chiropractor will help loosen up your jaw muscles. Chiropractors use safe and precise methods to manipulate your joints to reduce pain. Pain-blocking techniques can also be done to relieve you of back pain and neck pain.

Overall, victims of car collisions immediately seek medical attention. Some trauma might not be visible to the naked eye and can only be detected by tests done by medical professionals. TMJ pain can be debilitating, but it does not have to affect the quality of your life.

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