The Temporomandibular joint is often referred to as the TMJ. These are the joints in your jaw which allow your jaw to open and close. While the TMJ can be injured by other causes, trauma from an accident can also cause a TMJ injury. Injury to the TMJ is usually called Temporomandibular joint dysfunction or disorder.
A TMJ injury is very serious because the two joints are connected and control matching of the teeth in the upper jaw with the teeth and the lower jaw. When the two joints are damaged or out of alignment, wear and tear is accelerated causing increased intensity of the symptoms. Imagine a car being out of alignment wearing out the tires. If not corrected, the tires continue to wear until they are dangerous and unusable.
A TMJ injury can cause many symptoms, all of which are quite serious. Just imagine going through a lifetime with these injuries in the knowledge that they will likely increase over time. Even if a TMJ injury is corrected with surgery, traumatic arthritis will result and additional surgery may be required years later.
When the TMJ is injured, symptoms are often misdiagnosed and are mistaken for other injuries. We have seen clients who came to us after being represented by other lawyers where the clients were treated over an extended period of time for neck pain by a neurologist. We correctly suspected that the neck pain was actually a symptom of a TMJ injury which needed to be treated by an oral surgeon specializing in TMJ.
Early recognition of the symptoms and early diagnosis is crucial to prevent further much more serious injury. Even if properly diagnosed soon after an accident, a TMJ injury is still serious and may be treated with arthroscopic surgery. However, if not diagnosed early, open joint surgery may become necessary.
If you had an accident and are experiencing any of the following symptoms (you may experience one or more of these symptoms), call us immediately for a free consultation and we can help you obtain a diagnosis from a TMJ specialist:
- Pain, tenderness or a dull, aching of the jaw or side of your face or around your ear
- Pain, difficulty or discomfort when you chew, speak or yawn
- Swelling on the side of the face
- Sore, stiff muscles around your jaws
- Feeling as if the upper and lower teeth do not match together properly
- Difficulty or pain while opening or closing the mouth
- Limited ability to open your mouth normally
- Locking of the jaw while either opening or closing
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- Clicking, popping, or grating sound when opening or closing your mouth
- Headaches (frequent)
- Ear ache
- Ringing in your ear (tinnitis)
- Toothaches which are undiagnosed
- Neck pain
- Upper shoulder pain
Because a TMJ injury is serious, these are valuable injuries. In one case where our client had bilateral arthroscopic TMJ surgery and subsequently underwent open joint surgery on one side, we turned down an offer of $200,000 and at trial, a jury returned a verdict of $1.3 million. The defense tried unsuccessfully to argue that the TMJ injury was caused by a lifetime of poor dental care.
In another case, our client was represented for two years by another attorney and during that time was being treated by a dentist for her TMJ injury who said that she urgently needed arthroscopic surgery on one side to prevent the injury from getting worse and later requiring open joint surgery. Unfortunately, her no-fault benefits were denied early on and she could not afford to get arthroscopic surgery. Her attorney wrote numerous letters to the no-fault insurance company trying to get them to approve the surgery but without success. When we began representing her, we were quickly able to get the no-fault insurance company to agree to pay for the surgery. This case was settled for $135,000.
In yet another TMJ injury case, our client was injured in a car accident by a car which was insured for $250,000. This client underwent arthroscopic surgery and we settled the case for $225,000.