It’s not uncommon to suffer whiplash in a crash. This typically happens when the head suddenly moves back and forth with the impact of the collision. Most people picture whiplash victims with braces and other contraptions to stabilize their neck, which is often where the injury is often felt first.
Whiplash, however, can also cause injury to the jaw if the mouth opens during the crash or the jaw strikes a hard surface. Jaw pain may not be the first thing you focus on after a crash. However, if you are suffering pain while eating, yawning, brushing your teeth or just talking, you could have a TMJ disorder.
What are these joints and what do they do?
These are named for the joints next to each ear that attaches the skull and the jaw. They’re called the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). Most people use them over a couple of thousand times every day.
An injury to the TMJ can cause severe pain or even loss of function, depending on what type of injury was suffered. Muscle injury and disc displacement between the skull and lower jaw are particularly common after a collision. Sometimes degenerative arthritis can develop in the joint.
A TMJ injury may not be noticeable immediately
A person who suffers a TMJ injury may not notice it for days or even longer. Aside from pain and earaches, clicking or locking of the jaw are possible symptoms. It’s always wise to get it checked out if you didn’t mention it to a doctor when you were first evaluated after the crash. X-rays and other imaging can be used to confirm it.
If caught soon enough and not too serious, TMJ disorders can be treated by resting your jaw for a time. It may help to see a dentist, orthodontist or chiropractor. In more serious cases, surgery may be required.
It’s always important not to accept a settlement from the at-fault driver’s insurer until you know exactly what kind of injuries you’re dealing with and what kind of term treatment will be required. If you feel like you’re not being offered what you deserve or are being pressured to settle, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to protect your right to fair compensation.