Normal TMJ Anatomy

Being a Redmond personal injury attorney and working with the victims of severe Bellevue auto accidents, I realize that the face commonly suffers injury in auto accidents simply because the force of a collision sends the face plowing into the steering wheel, dashboard or airbag. This force can not only lead to bruises, and a broken nose it can also lead to jaw problems that can affect the victim for a lifetime.

TMD or Temporomandibular Disorders is a very common injury to the temporomandibular joint or TMJ. TMJ is a joint that connects the temporal bone of the skull to the mandible or lower jaw. The joint is located in front of each ear and allows the jaw to move from side to side and up and down- enabling a person to chew, talk and yawn. The muscles surrounding the joint control how the jaw sits and it’s movement. TMD is a problem with the jaw joint, jaw and muscles that control the movement in the jaw such as chewing and opening the jaw.

Injuries or trauma to the jaw such as those suffered in an auto accident can lead to TMD, other causes include excessive grinding or clenching of the teeth, dislocation of the disc in the joint, arthritis and stress. TMD is accompanied with a wide variety of uncomfortable symptoms including pain in the jaw, face, neck or shoulders, difficulty opening the mouth wide, a jaw that gets stuck open or closed, clicking or popping in the jaw joint, and swelling on the side of the face.

The treatment options for TMD vary depending on how bad it is. Many people choose to live with the discomfort and simply minimize the pain by avoiding gum and chewy foods such as beef jerky. For those with worse cases of TMD a mouth guard may be prescribed to immobilize the jaw and prevent grinding and clenching while the patient sleeps. For more advanced cases surgery may be an option.

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