Temporomandibular joint injuries are common injuries related to car accidents, sporting accidents, falls, and violence. A direct impact on the head or jaw often causes the injury. However, in a car accident and some other types of accidents, the forces involved are so severe that you can experience traumatic temporomandibular joint injury even if you didn’t contact anything with your jaw. The whiplash effect is enough to injure your jaw joints. These

At the Massa Dental Center, we can help you manage these joint injuries for long-term health and comfort. Our dentists and staff have exceptional training in the management of temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or TMD) and other complications of jaw trauma. Here are some guidelines to help you manage your trauma and know when to get professional care.

See a Doctor After Injury

If you’ve been involved in a car accident, sports accident, or fall or are a victim of violence that impacts your jaw, it’s essential to see a doctor at the time of injury. This is a good idea, even if you initially feel fine. Seeing a doctor can help document your injuries in case you need to reference them for insurance or legal purposes later.

A doctor will be able to identify broken bones or other types of injury that require immediate treatment. If the doctor sees tooth injuries, they may recommend dental treatment. At the Massa Dental Center, our dentists have experience providing restorative dentistry, including full mouth reconstruction after jaw injury.

Managing Symptoms at Home

If your visit to the doctor didn’t reveal any jaw injuries that need immediate treatment, then you can try managing your symptoms at home. Some common symptoms after jaw trauma include:

  • A bite that feels off
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Soreness in the muscles and joint
  • Limited jaw opening
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain

These symptoms may appear immediately after your accident or develop days, weeks, or even months later.

Common strategies for managing these symptoms include:

  • Relaxing your jaw
  • Applying heat and ice
  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications

For many people, these home care solutions might be all you need to treat your jaw injury.

Relaxing Your Jaw

Jaw relaxation can be challenging because of everything your jaw does for you daily. You may be aware of your jaw when you bite, chew, or speak, but your jaw also works when you swallow, breathe, yawn, or just stand upright.

Switch to a soft food diet temporarily. This isn’t a liquid diet–you can still eat solid foods but try to make them soft. This includes yogurt, eggs, mashed potatoes, soups, and others. It’s easy to get a varied and nutritious soft food diet. If you eat foods that require chewing, cut them into small pieces.

Remember that your jaw helps support your head, so it can help your jaw to spend more time with your head supported. Sit in chairs with good headrests, and always try to maintain good posture when sitting or standing.

Yawns can strain your jaw, so try to keep from yawning too wide. If you feel you will yawn, put your fist below your jaw to keep it from opening too wide.

Apply Heat and Ice

Applying heat and ice packs can help to control pain and discomfort from jaw injuries. They can also help speed recovery.

Ice packs are good for general pain relief and can help control inflammation–swelling–that leads to further discomfort and poor jaw function. Resist the temptation to apply ice packs directly to the skin. Put a cloth between the ice and your skin. Apply ice over short periods, about 10 to 20 minutes.

If you have muscle pains, moist heat can also help relieve pain and improve function. You can use a damp, warm towel or bath if you can immerse your jaw joints comfortably. Some people also get good results with a rice sock.

OTC Medications

OTC medications can also help manage your jaw injury symptoms. However, it’s important to remember that these medications have risks.

Unless otherwise instructed by a doctor, never exceed the recommended dosage on the label. Also, understand which medications are safe to use together. For example, you can alternate acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). However, take care that you aren’t taking two medications that contain acetaminophen, and avoid alternating ibuprofen with another NSAID like naproxen (Aleve).

If you are having trouble controlling your symptoms with OTC medications, don’t increase your dosage or frequency. Instead, seek professional care.

When to Seek Professional Care for Ongoing Symptoms

Often, jaw injury symptoms will go away with diligent home care. However, sometimes you need professional care.

You should get professional care for jaw injury symptoms if they:

  • Worsen under home care
  • Interfere with daily life
  • Don’t respond to OTC medications
  • Persist for more than seven days
  • Resolve and then recur

If your symptoms worsen under home care, stop the care you’re trying and seek professional care.

Of course, any jaw injury symptoms will make it harder to live your daily life, but you should seek professional care if you can’t sleep, talk, or do your job because of your symptoms. This includes if you experience a locked jaw. Don’t try to force a locked jaw on your own. You might be able to get it to move but at the cost of permanent injury.

OTC medications come with risks. If you’re not getting good control of your symptoms with them, you shouldn’t increase your dosage without talking to a health professional.

Symptoms that persist or resolve then return often need professional care, or they will worsen.

If you are looking for professional care for ongoing jaw injury symptoms, the dentists at the Massa Dental Center can help.

Treatment for Jaw Injury Symptoms

If you develop jaw symptoms after a jaw injury, the Massa Dental Center is prepared to help. We can determine whether your symptoms indicate that you’re developing TMJ and treat it accordingly. Getting treatment sooner maximizes the chances of successful treatment with nonsurgical and noninvasive techniques.

Please call (239) 597-7333 or use our online form today to request an appointment at Massa Dental Center in Naples, FL.