Whiplash May Cause Jaw Pain

A study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association found that one in three people exposed to whiplash trauma is at risk of developing delayed TMJ symptoms that may require treatment.

Researchers at Umeå University, Sweden, studied short- and long-term temporomandibular joint pain and dysfunction in 59 patients in hospital emergency rooms directly after they were involved in a rear-end car collision and then re-evaluated them again one year later.

According to the study, the incidence of new symptoms of TMJ pain or dysfunction or both between the initial examination and follow-up was five times higher in the injured subjects than in uninjured control subjects.

Frequency of TMJ pain increased significantly in female subjects. During the follow-up evaluation, 20 percent of all subjects reported that TMJ symptoms were their main complaint.

According to the American Dental Association, the temporomandibular joint is one of the most complex joints in the body. Located on each side of the head, these joints work together and can make many different movements, including a combination of rotating and gliding actions that are used when chewing and speaking. Any problem that prevents this system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working together properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.

The study authors asked subjects to rate their pain intensity and report the degree to which symptoms interfered with their daily lives, including sleep disturbances, use of pain relievers and the need to take sick leave.

The study acknowledges that the subjects’ estimations of pain and pain intensity would have been even higher had there not been a more extensive use of analgesics in the injured subjects’ group. Conversely, pain’s adverse effect on sleep and daily activities might enhance a patient’s perception of pain and pain intensity.

Also, depression symptoms are common after whiplash trauma and neck pain intensity directly after whiplash trauma sometimes precedes depression The researchers did not assess psychological and psychosocial illnesses in the study. They believe further research is needed to evaluate their impact on TMJ symptoms after whiplash.

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