What to do About Whiplash-Induced TMJ?

Evaluation of whiplash injuries usually focuses on damage to the cervical spine and the resulting symptoms. However, it is often overlooked to consider how trauma may affect the muscles, ligaments, and bones that connect your lower and upper jaws, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Continue reading to learn more about how whiplash can cause jaw pain and how it is treated.

If you have jaw pain or other TMJ symptoms listed below, schedule an appointment at Trident Dental for a comprehensive TMJ evaluation.

What Is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury known medically as acceleration-deceleration (CAD) syndrome. In the United States, more than two million people suffer whiplash each year from automobile accidents, sports injuries, falls, and other types of trauma. These traumatic incidents overstretch joints, muscles, and ligaments in the head and neck that cause neck pain, stiffness, and loss of motion in your neck. Other symptoms include pain and tingling in the shoulder and arms, excessive tiredness, and dizziness.

Can Whiplash Cause TMJ?

According to research reported in the Journal of the American Dental Association, one in three people who experience a whiplash injury are at risk of having TMJ symptoms that may require professional treatment. The TMJ is recognized as one of the most complex joints in the body due to its anatomy and the many movements it makes each day. The cause of TMJ symptoms is often difficult to determine, and this is true when whiplash is a factor.

How Does Whiplash Cause TMJ?

Researchers have proposed two ways that whiplash may cause TMJ symptoms to develop. The first is known as the direct injury theory, which involves a jaw movement that coincides with the neck’s rapid backward and forward movement. The result of the jaw and neck movements is internal damage to the disk of tissue between the bones of the temporomandibular joint. 

The indirect injury theory concludes that whiplash causes muscle spasms that lead to abnormal jaw positions and movements. This stress on the joint results in pain and other TMJ disorder symptoms. Some researchers go as far as discounting the physical trauma and maintaining that the TMJ symptoms that occur after whiplash are a psychosocial disorder

While the cause of TMJ in whiplash and other cases remains uncertain, dentists are eager to help patients alleviate this painful and often debilitating condition.

What Are The Symptoms of Whiplash-Induced TMJ?

Dysfunction and disorder of the temporomandibular joint commonly referred to as “TMJ,” can result in a wide variety of symptoms, including:

  • Pain. This is the most common initial symptom, especially while chewing or moving your jaw.

  • Stiffness. Eating and speaking are made more difficult due to the loss of range of motion in this joint that connects the lower and upper jaws.

  • Earache and headache.

  • Facial pain.

  • Joint sounds such as clicking and popping.

  • Teeth pain or sensitivity.

What Can I Do About Whiplash-Induced TMJ?

The symptoms of whiplash, including TMJ, typically resolve within a few weeks. However, a medical assessment and follow-up are advised. Lingering TMJ symptoms can be frustrating and cause problems such as anxiety, loss of sleep, and depression. Your dentist can often help alleviate TMJ symptoms through various treatment recommendations, such as:

  • Mouth and night guards.

  • Bite correction.

  • Jaw exercises.

  • Massage.

  • Stress reduction.

  • Medications, including corticosteroid injections.

Schedule Appointment

Contact us at Trident Dental to learn how we can help you with any questions or problems you might have about jaw pain and other symptoms of TMJ disorder. We provide comprehensive dental services to prevent and treat this painful condition that can damage your teeth and gums.

Schedule Appointment

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