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Can I Develop TMJ after Suffering Whiplash in a Car Accident?

Author: Donald Tanenbaum DDS MPH - Board-Certified Orofacial Pain Specialist at New York TMJ & Orofacial Pain

Date: October 9, 2012

Very often I get patients who come to me complaining of limited or painful jaw movement and are looking to pinpoint why. After tests, X-rays, and long discussions with the patient, they might casually let it slip that they were in a car accident recently and banged their head on the dashboard. The light bulb didn’t go off in their heads. They didn’t see a connection. But is there one? Can a patient develop painful or reduced jaw movement from a collision, even if they hadn’t made direct contact with their jaw?

According to a recent Canadian study, released in the Journal of American Dental Association (JADA), a population-based survey has revealed a strong connection between reduced or painful jaw movement and whiplash-associated disorders (WADs).

The questionnaire sent out to Canadians who filed personal injury claims over an 18-month period, and the responses determined:

  • A greater number of victims with WADs reported limited or painful jaw movement than those without WADs.
  • Those who experienced limited or painful jaw movement were greater among women.
  • Those who experience limited or painful jaw movement were greater among younger claimants.

The JADA study threw out respondents who had suffered from limited or painful jaw movement prior to the motor vehicle accident. It also excluded respondents who were hospitalized for more than two days, or who were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists involved in the accident.

The message? If you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident and suffer from some kind of whiplash-related pain or injury, you might also be susceptible to symptoms similar to TMJ. In our consultations, we always ask patients details that may seem insignificant, but are backed by research. Some of these questions might pertain to your psychological state, work or life stresses, and yes; whether you’ve been in a motor vehicle accident recently.

Dr. Donald Tanenbaum is a specialist with offices in New York City and Long Island, NY. He is uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat facial pain associated with jaw problemsTMJreferred painnerve pain, and migraines. Find out more at

DISCLAIMER: The advice offered in response to your questions is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. Namely, we in no way offer a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendation for your particular situation. Our intent is solely educational and our responses to your actual questions serve as a springboard to discussion of a variety of dental topics that come up in a day-to-day dental practice. Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified professional.

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