Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ) provides another reason not to smile about whiplash.
Generally it is not common knowledge that whiplash can affect the jaw and teeth. These joint disorders often go overlooked as they are usually symptoms that take some time to manifest themselves; often taking as long as several months.
During a rear end, front-on or side-impact collision, the head and neck are subjected to a variety of forces that extend the cervical spine beyond its natural range of motion and 'snap' them back into place with great speed and sudden, forceful movements; mimicking the action of a whiplash.
These areas can move at 1.5 to 2 times the acceleration of the vehicle itself, if the vehicle is moving at a relatively slow speed, say 8 mph, for example. At higher speeds, the head and neck can accelerate at up to 10 times the speed of the vehicle, resulting in severe damage.
In the case of TMJ injuries, the jaw joint is stretched as the head accelerates forward and up with sudden force. Many sufferers report a loud clicking or popping sensation at the time of impact. The small bone that links the jaw joint is then forced back into and against the socket as the head recoils from its forward trajectory; in effect the jaw can mimic the whiplash action that the head and neck go through during an impact.
Although the actual TMJ injury can take a long time to fully materialise, the symptoms that follow can be as painful and, in some cases, as debilitating as the whiplash injury itself. These symptoms can include chronic headaches, ringing in the ears, a fullness in the ears, nose and sinuses, facial pain, pain or the sensation of a foreign body in the throat, difficulty in swallowing, eye-pain, clicking of the jaw-joint, facial stiffness or weakness, skin rashes, a feeling of toothache and pain in the scalp area.
In some cases, the jaw snaps shut with such force that damage is done to the nerves and pulp of the teeth and has been known to cause '~root-death' that can mean dental extraction. The injury is comparable to an 'uppercut' punch or kick to the jaw.
TMJ is still one of the lesser known side effects of whiplash injury and associated disorders. It is becoming more prevalent and understood in medical circles, which have combined forces with personal injury specialists to prove to motor insurance companies that this is a painful and legitimate condition.
In the past, motor insurers have been reluctant to make payments for the treatment of TMJ, especially as the symptoms can occur a long time after the impact has taken place. Now, however, thanks to further research, TMJ is being treated with the seriousness it deserves.
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