In the many years that Dr. Auvenshine has treated TMJ problems, one thing has become abundantly clear – patients develop TMD for many different reasons. It may relate to a problem in the bite, or to excessive clenching or grinding of the teeth. Other times, the person has suffered an injury leading to TMJ dysfunction.
Any injury occurring to the mandible, temporomandibular joint, surrounding ligaments or muscles of the face and neck has the potential to cause temporomandibular disorders (TMD). According to some studies, injury is the leading cause of TMD. In 1990, the Journal of the American Dental Association published an article that stated anywhere from 44-99% of the TMD cases studied involved some sort of injury.
These high numbers certainly make people take notice. If you are feeling pain in your jaw and have suffered one of the injuries below, there is a possibility that TMD has developed as a result of the trauma.
Many people think that whiplash is just a neck injury, but numerous studies have shown that TMD can occur as well. Another publication in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that 1 in 3 people who get whiplash experience delayed TMD. Too often physicians mistake a patient’s TMJ pain for a neck injury and fail to properly treat the issue.
A Heavy Blow to the Lower Jaw
Any time you receive a blow to the lower jaw it can cause trauma that is significant enough to misalign, dislocate or break your jaw. Patients will often hear clicking when they move their jaw if there has been a disarrangement of the TMJ anatomy, such as a disc displacement or injury to the condyle (the top portion of the mandible bone).
A Heavy Blow to the Side of the Head
When a heavy blow to the side of the head occurs, it can cause the temporalis muscle to contract. If it contracts, the tightening will lift the lower jaw and cause misalignment. The symptoms of this type of injury usually include jaw pain and headaches.
Stretching of the Joint
Anytime you have to hold your mouth open for extended periods of time, it has the potential for stretching and straining the temporomandibular joint. This often occurs after an extensive dental procedure that requires your mouth to be open for half an hour or more.
Preventing TMJ After Suffering an Injury
The easiest way to prevent any kind of further trauma after an injury is to see a physician immediately. If injuries aren’t cared for as soon as they occur the body won’t heal properly. When an injury happens to the jaw, there is the possibility that the jaw will become misaligned. This can put you at higher risk for developing TMD. A dentist trained in treating TMD can provide treatment to encourage proper and rapid healing of the jaw.
Anytime you receive a whiplash injury, your dentist should screen you for signs of TMJ pain or dysfunction. This should be done right after the accident and reexamined for up to a year.
Following any type of injury to the head, jaw or neck patients should take care not to put unnecessary strain on the TMJ. Limit how much you talk, eat soft foods that don’t require chewing and relax. Much of the damage to your jaw can be done in the days following the injury if you continue about your daily activities as usual.
If you need dental work or another procedure that requires you to hold your mouth open for a significant amount of time, you can take steps to ease the TMJ pain. Immediately after the procedure, use a hot compress and massage to relax the muscles and help them recover.
If you begin experiencing any TMJ symptoms, such as clicking and popping in the jaw, difficulty opening your jaw, or pain around the jaw region, it’s important to seek the help of a dentist trained in treating the TMJ. Patients come to MedCenter TMJ because they know they will get an accurate diagnosis and customized treatments that address the cause. No matter where you live, the dentist you choose should have diagnostic equipment and experience in assessing the severity of TMD.
If you reside in the Houston area and would like to discuss your injuries and symptoms with one of our doctors, please give us a call or use the online form to schedule an appointment.