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What are the Effects of a TMJ Injury?

Article Details
  • Written By: Jami Yontz
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 15 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder injury can cause severe pain and discomfort of the jawbone when the mouth opens and closes. The temporomandibular joint is positioned just in front of a person’s ears, and it controls the upper and lower jaw by connecting them in the glenoid fossa socket. Effects of a TMJ injury include pain and discomfort, difficulty in opening the mouth, or clicking sounds when opening and closing the mouth. Swelling, chipped teeth, ringing in the ears, locked jaw, neck pain and stiffness can also result from a TMJ injury. Some people may experience headaches, feel that their bite has been changed, or feel their bite is uncomfortable.

TMJ injuries commonly occur because of whiplash experienced during a vehicle collision. Due to the force of impact, the head is whipped one way, while the neck continues to hold the jaw in place. This forces the mouth to hyper extend and open, resulting in torn ligaments. A blow to the head can also result in a TMJ injury because of the same forcible extension of the ligaments. Trauma to the joint can also be caused by the deployment of an air bag during a collision, or if the person hits their head or mouth on the dashboard or other surrounding objects.

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Other causes of TMJ dysfunction include bruxism, or grinding of the teeth, keeping the jaw opened too wide for extended periods of time, and braces or other orthodontic treatments. Conditions such as ligament laxity, rheumatoid arthritis, sleep disorders, mumps, measles and lupus can cause TMJ damage. Stress is a large contributing factor to TMJ disorders, as many people who experience stress tend to clench the muscles in the mouth and grind their teeth in their sleep, which causes damage to the joint and increases the swelling in the neck and jaw.

Most times, a TMJ injury does not need to be treated with surgery or dental procedures. A dentist or physician may take x-rays to determine the severity of damage to the joint, and he will evaluate whether the injury needs treatment. To treat a TMJ injury, a dentist may suggest having a bite guard made to preventing teeth grinding during the person’s sleep. Painkillers, antidepressants, corticosteroid injections, and muscle relaxers may be prescribed to reduce the inflammation of the joint and to reduce pain. Stress relieving practices as well as stretching or massaging the joint are also helpful activities for treating TMJ injuries.

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