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Whiplash Injuries - Dentistry's Role

By: Ronald Neer, DDS  E-mail: ronneer@nemonet.com

How the Injury Occurs

Whiplash the most common trauma, occurs when the muscles which attach to the front of the neck and chest do not have time to relax. Consequently, these muscles anchor the jaw but not the head by holding it still so that the mouth opens too wide while the head snaps back.

The TMJ joints dislocate when they are pulled out of the socket and forcefully pushed against the back of the socket when the head whips forward.

Since the head and neck are forced to move beyond their normal range of motion, the muscles, ligaments and discs are damaged with an injury. The key thing to note is that most of the time there is a TMJ injury when there has been a Whiplash injury but symptoms may not be felt until hours or months after the injury. Since soft tissue (discs, ligaments, and muscles) damage does not show up well on screening x-rays, it is difficult to immediately see structural damage. Common medical observation does not provide a conclusive diagnosis. Many times the patients nor the health care providers suspect damage to the jaw joints, muscles and ligaments. When this condition is not recognized and properly treated it can become the dominant medical problem causing various disabilities and legal issues. When this type of injury occurs, the symptoms can include some or more of the following:

  • Headaches-usually in temples and back of head and neck
  • Face or jaw pain
  • Ear pain, fullness or stuffiness, ringing or even loss of hearing
  • Pain behind the eyes or unexplained eye disorders
  • Dizziness/Balance problems
  • Limited mouth opening or locking (opened or closed)
  • Difficulty closing teeth together
  • Unexplained teeth pain
  • Clicking, popping, or pain in jaw joint
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Unusual fatigue or lack of energy
  • Neck, shoulder, back pain or stiffness

Attorneys please contact me so that I might help you affirm your clients condition and help them find a reliable source for the appropriate treatment needed or offer my expertise.