With people driving instead of flying to their travel destinations right now because it’s deemed safer due to COVID-19, there has been an increase in car accidents across the US. Combining the extra road trips with summertime already being the highest time of year for car accidents, more and more Americans face injuries from car accidents. Even in minor car accidents, it’s easy for whiplash or the smallest injuries you might not even notice to occur. One side effect of car accidents is developing TMJ. TMJ can lead to debilitating symptoms like jaw pain, tinnitus, frequent headaches, and more. So if you experience jaw pain after a car accident, there might be something else going on.

TMJ and Whiplash

woman massaging her neck after a car accident

Even a minor car accident can subject your body to tremendous forces. The car’s crumple zones will absorb some of the force and protective devices like seatbelts and airbags can keep you from striking objects inside the car. But even so, your body may be subjected to accelerations many times the force of gravity. This force transmits through your body, and the parts that are secured–your torso–pull on your joints to bring along the unsecured parts, such as your head and neck. This is known as whiplash.

The reason whiplash can damage joints is because the soft tissue that surrounds the joints cannot withstand that amount of force. Whiplash injury is most common in the neck. The neck is where the relatively small amount of tissue in your throat and spine become stressed by the weight of the entire head. Soft tissue joints secure your jaw which easily becomes stressed in a car accident. Even if you don’t hit your jaw, you can suffer damage to the TMJ joints, resulting in temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).

Controversy about TMJ in Car Accidents

Not everyone believes that TMJ after car accidents is something that happens at all, let alone very often. Some say it’s something lawyers trumped up to attempt to get more compensation for clients.

And scientific studies on the condition have resulted in conflicting evidence. A 2009 review of studies from 1966 forward sums it up like this, “because of lack of homogeneity in the study populations and lack of standardization of data collection procedures and outcomes measured, this review cannot conclusively resolve the controversies that exist concerning this relationship.”

However, when we look at the way scientists conducted their studies, we can see that TMJ after a car accident is likely quite common.

The Question Determines the Answer

When we look at the different methodologies used by researchers, it becomes clear the scientists are part of the problem. Take a 1992 study, for example. This study concluded that “the incidence of TMJ pain and clicking following whiplash injury is extremely low.” However, this may be due to the way researchers approached the subject. They just asked people whether they suffered jaw joint pain and clicking of the jaw joint. TMJ is a complex condition with many potential symptoms.

However, when we look at a different study that examined patients and asked them about dysfunction as well as pain and clicking, we see that they find that more people are likely to get TMJ after a car accident. About a third of car accident victims in their sample had TMJ symptoms, which lasted for about a year.

Complex TMJ Treatment in Savannah, GA

We understand that TMJ is a complex disorder. After a thorough evaluation of your jaw joint to determine the extent and type of your TMJ, we will recommend appropriate treatment steps to relieve all your symptoms.

For help with TMJ after a car accident, please contact Beyond Exceptional Dentistry by calling (912) 234-8282 in Savannah, Georgia, today.