TMJ, which stands for Tempero-mandibular joint syndrome, manifests itself through pain felt in the mandible, which is the joint used for swinging open the jaw. This condition affects millions of people in the United States alone, and can be caused by a number of different factors. One of the most often thought of these is anything which puts extra stress on the joint. This can be done by a large overbite, teeth grinding (while sleeping in particular), jaw clenching (often done by those who experience chronic stress and/or anger), or by an injury affecting the face and jaw. These injuries present themselves in several difference forms, such as taking a punch to the area while boxing or from a car or motorcycle accident. Even without the presence of a fracture, it is very possible that this fairly-small joint’s smooth cartilage will experience damage. In addition, as you move closer to the pivot-point near the ear, the size of the mandible bone decreases, which makes the TMJ much more susceptible to fractures. Many injuries of this type are not discovered for more than a few months after they occur. It takes a long time for the injured person to experience enough pain to seek out a physician or dentist and obtain a diagnosis. The pain from TMJ can have very real debilitating effects on the victim, and these consequences can increase stress that led to the problem in the first place.
Symptoms & Treatment
Many patients initially think that their pain is caused by a tooth infection. Many of these affected people can feel a popping or grinding sensation coming from the joint, which is amplified while eating. The pain will usually be worse on one side of the head than it is on the other. Habitual gum-chewers, especially, seem to be plagued with a greater frequency of joint problems. Most of the pain can be minimized with the use of mild painkillers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. However, in some cases that alone is not enough. When that occurs, the patient can wear a mouthpiece that is somewhat like what football players wear either at night, or, in severe cases, during the day as well. This will keep the TMJ from moving when it doesn’t need to. Allowing the TMJ to rest for a longer amount of time can give the patient great relief. A slightly more intense treatment involves injecting a low dosage of an anti-inflammatory steroid into the joint. This has been shown to cure the patient for weeks, or even months in some cases. However, this treatment cannot be continuously repeated forever because it can eventually have an adverse effect on the injured joint. This effects usually present as a decrease or coarsening of what would usually be smooth cartilage. For the most extreme cases, surgery is used to realign the teeth properly. To do this it is necessary to either remove part of the bone or inset a spacer, which elongates the mandible. If the TMJ has been caused by psychiatric factors that are leading the jaw muscles to experience constant tension, sometimes anxiety medications will help. A more out-of-the-box method is hypnosis, which is usually worth trying because it is not at all invasive and has no potential bad side-effects.
Contact a Lawyer About Your TMJ Injury
If you have suffered a TMJ injury as a result of a car accident, or negligence of others, Parker Scheer recommends that you consult with a personal injury lawyer and evaluate your case. For your free confidential case review click here and receive a response from one of our attorneys within hours. If you prefer, you can also telephone our offices in Boston seven days a week at toll free .
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