It is a matter of common sense that a direct impact to the lower jaw, temple, or temporomandibular joint can result in injury to the TM joint. A lesser-known mechanism of injury is the TM joint injury resulting from trauma to structures, which directly or indirectly provide attachment to or are functionally related to jaw biomechanics. Neck whiplash injuries are a common cause of late onset symptoms of jaw dysfunctions. Several scientific studies have looked at this specific relationship. The most recent study by Sale and Isberg, published in the Journal of American Dental Association in 2007, reported the incidence of new TM disorder symptoms was 5 times higher in the whiplash injury group as compared to the control group. In the whiplash group, 2 out of 3 patients reported onset of symptoms within 12 months and 20% of the whiplash group stated TMD as their major complaint. Our clients often present with TMD complaints months or years following their whiplash injury without ever having been evaluated for TMD prior to settlement for medical cost of treating the whiplash injury to their neck. TMD treatment then becomes an out of pocket expense and cost alone may prevent the injured person from receiving effective TMD treatment.
The important points to remember are
1) Cervical whiplash alone without direct impact to the temporomandibular structures results in the development of significant TMD complaints in 2 out of 3 whiplash injuries
2) If yourself, a friend or a loved-one suffer a neck whiplash injury from a fall or motor vehicle accident, monitor closely for at least 12 months for the development of possible TMD related symptoms