Sore Jaw? What You Need To Know About Jaw Injuries Following Car Accidents

Sore jaw? Jaw injuries following car accidents should NOT be ignored. It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have suffered a TMJ injury following a car accident. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to alleviate pain and discomfort and prevent long-term problems with the joint.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) injuries are a common result of car accidents. The TMJ is the hinge joint that connects the jawbone to the skull, and it allows us to move our jaw up and down and side to side for tasks such as talking, chewing, and swallowing. When this joint is damaged, it can lead to pain, discomfort, and difficulty with everyday activities.

In 2004, the insurance industry convinced the Alberta government to implement the ‘Minor Injury Regulation’ (MIR). This scheme was intended to capture as many injured Albertans under the umbrella of the phrase ‘minor injury’ as possible. Fortunately there has been a case which limited the interpretation of the MIR that the insurers had been promoting. In Sparrowhawk v. Zaplotinsky [2012 ABQB] the judge decided that people who suffer jaw injuries (also known as TMJ or Temporamandibular Joint injuries) are not limited to the minor injury ‘Cap’.

This is crucial because insurance companies would prefer you did NOT know the compensation you’re entitled to on top of the injury cap.

The insurer in the Sparrowhawk case argued that the jaw has ‘muscles, ligaments and tendons’, just like the back does and therefore any injury to ‘muscles, ligaments or tendons’ in the jaw would only result in a ‘minor injury’. The judge disagreed, saying “all injuries treated principally by dentists… are never minor injuries”.

More on TMJ Injuries

There are several ways that car accidents can cause TMJ injuries. One common mechanism is through direct trauma to the jaw or face. This can occur when a person’s head strikes an object during the collision or when the person is hit by a flying object inside the vehicle. The impact of the collision can also cause the head to be violently shaken, which can lead to TMJ injuries.

Another way that car accidents can cause TMJ injuries is through whiplash. Whiplash is a type of neck injury that occurs when the head is quickly and forcefully thrown forward and then backward. This motion can cause the muscles and ligaments in the neck to stretch and tear, leading to pain and discomfort. The muscles in the jaw can also be affected by whiplash, leading to TMJ injuries.

Symptoms of TMJ injuries following a car accident may include pain or tenderness in the jaw, difficulty opening and closing the mouth, and a clicking or popping sound when moving the jaw. Treatment for TMJ injuries may include rest, ice or heat therapy, over-the-counter pain medications, and physical therapy. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the damage.

There are other exceptions to the ‘minor injury’ scheme that you should be aware of, such as if your injuries cause ‘serious impairment’ or prevent you from doing your job or your normal activities of daily living for an extended period of time. Your best course of action is contact your lawyer.

Don’t hesitate. Give us a call for a free consultation about your case.