Can Trauma Cause TMJ Disorders?

Injury to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can occur in many ways, including trauma to the jaw, head, or neck areas. The TMJ is complex and functions as both a ball-and-socket and sliding joint and is responsible for chewing, talking, and swallowing.

Acute trauma to the jaw muscles or bones is the most common cause of TMJ injury, such as a direct blow due to a car accident, sports accident, or physical altercation. Repetitive injury to the muscle tissues, such as jaw clenching, can also be responsible for TMJ symptoms. Whether degenerative or trauma-induced, TMJ disorders are typically caused by the following:

  • Excessive movement of the muscles that results in the disc pulling forward.
  • Stretching to the tissues attached to the disc.
  • Conditions interfering with the disc’s ability to slide on the condyle “knob.”
  • Thinning of the disc.
  • Functional displacement of the disc resulting in jaw clicking.
  • Functional dislocation of the disc.
  • Dislocation resulting in jaw “catching” that locks the jaw but can be manipulated into place by jaw movement.
  • Permanent displacement resulting in jaw locking requiring medical manipulation.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Are There Different Types of TMJ Trauma?

Trauma resulting in TMJ is caused by either macro- or microtrauma or a combination. Microtrauma refers to any major physical damage caused by a single injury, such as direct impact to the jaw area. Macro occurs due to repeated injury to an area, such as teeth grinding or jaw clenching. There are three categories of TMJ injuries:

  • Myofascial pain: Pain in the controlling muscles of the jaw, often including muscles in the neck and shoulders. Myofascial pain is often associated with car accident injuries.
  • Internal joint derangement: Displacement of the disc-like cushion between the lower jaw and skull, often caused by a direct blow to the jaw from sports, car accidents, or physical assault.
  • Inflammatory joint disease: Inflammation in the TMJ by either:
    • Arthritis: Inflammation affecting joints, which can include the TMJ, due to degenerative osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and traumatic, infectious, psoriatic, and gouty arthritis.
    • Synovitis: Inflammation of the synovial membrane lining the joint, which provides lubricating fluid for joint movement.

What Are Common TMJ Disorder Symptoms?

Injuries to the TMJ produce a wide range of symptoms, and patients may experience only a few or all of them. Symptoms of a TMJ disorder include:

  • Difficulty biting and chewing.
  • Jaw clicking when chewing or opening and closing the mouth.
  • Jaw locking.
  • Persistent headaches.
  • Facial pain or tenderness.
  • Neck, shoulder, and back pain.
  • Tinnitus.
  • Sinus congestion or pain.
  • Dizziness.
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Hearing problems.
  • Depression.

How Is TMJ Pain Treated?

Non-surgical treatments are effective in the majority of cases. In severe cases, restoration of the joint and pain elimination through surgical treatment is often necessary, especially if trauma caused immediate and significant damage to the joint. There are different types of TMJ surgeries and procedures, including:

  • Arthroscopy/arthrocentesis: These procedures are utilized for joint pain that has not been remedied through other treatments. The surgeon inserts a tiny arthroscopic instrument through a small incision in the jaw area or flushing the joint with small needles and inserting anti-inflammatory agents.
  • Soft tissue repair: Patients with severe damage to the soft tissue and disc displacement often require this surgery to tighten stretched ligaments and connective tissue to place the disc in its proper position.
  • Joint restructuring: Primarily for patients with joint deteriorating arthritis, this surgery involves smoothing the condyle to restructure the joint and replacing all or part with an artificial joint.

South Jersey Oral Surgeons at Lanzi Burke Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons Treat Patients Suffering From TMJ Disorders or Trauma

TMJ injuries can be painful and cause a multitude of symptoms that can affect an individual’s speaking, chewing, and swallowing functions. Our experienced South Jersey oral surgeons at Lanzi Burke Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons can help you with your TMJ pain. Call us at 856-582-4222 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Located in Washington Township, Haddonfield, and Woolwich Township, New Jersey, we are dedicated to helping patients throughout South Jersey.

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