TMJ Problems – Understanding Temporomandibular Joint Injury

A temporomandibular joint (TMJ) injury is almost always an element of a larger accident or injury case. Car accidents, slip and falls, assaults, and other personal injuries can be so distressful that internal injuries may go unnoticed or feel unrelated to the accident.

Symptoms such as significant or recurring headaches, popping noise while chewing, locking jaw, or pain in the ears or cheeks may be signs of injury to the temporomandibular joint. This joint connects the lower jaw to the temporal bone of the skull and allows opening and closing the mouth, chewing, yawning, and talking.

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These injuries can be severely debilitating and affect hundreds of thousands of accident victims. TMJ disorder is likely to cause painful and traumatizing facial effects following an accident. Accident Injuries to the cervical spine and head and facial injuries are a major cause of TMJ disorder, yet the significance of the initial injury is often disregarded or misdiagnosed.

Other causes of TMJ disorder are not accident-related, such as repetitive, continual grinding of teeth or clenching the jaw.

What are Symptoms of TMJ Problems?

TMJ injury may affect muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Clients suffering from TMJ damage may experience various symptoms that affect quality of life, including

  • Difficulty talking, swallowing, chewing, or yawning
  • Problems biting
  • Jaw locking open or closed
  • Vertigo
  • Swelling
  • Headaches
  • Toothaches
  • Neck, shoulder, and back pain
  • Pain in the neck or cheeks
  • Ear congestion
  • Other spasms in the mouth

Overcoming Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

TMJ problems often require treatment through a combined effort of a physician, physical therapist and dentist. Medical care can include physical therapy, jaw appliance therapy, medication management such as muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory medications, and behavior management. Medical or dental procedures are available that may minimize the symptoms of TMJ injuries.

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