Trauma and Temporomandibular (TMJ) Injury
This article will assist the legal professional in the determination of temporomandibular (TMJ) injury and whether or not it is related to trauma.3 min read
This article will assist the legal professional in the determination of temporomandibular (TMJ) injury and whether or not it is related to trauma. The TMJ or jaw joint is the joint immediately in front of the ears. Although this joint is frequently injured these TMJ injuries are often misdiagnosed and have only recently received widespread attention. The temporomandibular joint is unique in that this joint dislocates itself within its ball and socket arrangement so the jaw can fully open. This intricate arrangement lends the TMJ susceptible to injury during traumatic episodes such as rear-end collisions involving cervical whiplash and other blows to the face. Pain disorders often head and neck in general and TMJ dysfunctions, in particular, are complex disorders and are difficult to diagnose precisely and treat effectively. These disorders are progressive and, if left untreated, can increase the range of functional implications which can be devastating to the patient. Few medical and dental practitioners have specialized training and experience in such disorders.
How Does the TMJ Injury Occur?
In rear-end collisions, there is a cause and effect relationship during whiplash injuries that can cause damage to the temporomandibular joints. There is a sudden impact in which the head can snap in multi-directional planes. This happens so quickly that the neck muscles never have a chance to relax; thus they anchor and hold the jaw still. As the head is forced backward by the impact, the mouth will excessively open and hyperextend. This leads to tearing of the muscles and supporting ligaments within the temporomandibular joints, resulting in scar formation, neurogenic and muscular pain and edema. This can also occur from other sources of trauma. As an example a blow to the jaw from a fight can push the jaw back, tearing the restraining ligaments, as can a fall, contact sports (football, hockey) especially which a chin strap is utilized.