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Jaw Pain After a Car Accident: What Causes It and How Chiropractic Care Can Help You Find Relief

Your recent car accident has left you with jaw pain, wondering how you can get rid of this aching sensation that seems to get worse by the day. 

You expected to feel some soreness, but this pain feels different. Unfortunately, jaw pain after a car accident can be a signal you might be experiencing a more serious injury. 

Luckily, getting chiropractic care can help reduce that pain and get to the root cause of your injury, so you can resume normal life as pain-free as possible. 

If your jaw hurts after a car accident, read on to learn about common injuries that can result in jaw pain, when to seek treatment, and what chiropractic treatment for jaw pain looks like.

jaw pain after car accident

Table of Contents

Can a Car Accident Cause Jaw Pain? 

Absolutely — a car accident can cause jaw pain due to the extreme force your body is subjected to on impact. 

According to the Montana Department of Transportation, at just 30 mph, a person not wearing a seat belt in a crash has the same experience as falling from a 3-story building or getting rammed by a 3.5-ton elephant.

That force can result in both immediate symptoms of injury, as well as delayed ones. Jaw pain after a car accident is often an example of a delayed-onset symptom and can be an indicator of more severe injuries that may require immediate attention.

In order to prevent ongoing pain and damage, it’s crucial to understand what these symptoms are, what they might mean, and how they can be treated.

What Causes Jaw Pain After a Car Accident? 

The cause of jaw pain in an accident will depend on the type of accident you’re in and where impact occurred.

Jaw pain can also occur as a result of a rear-ended car accident, where your head is forced backward, but your jaw is held down by your neck muscles. This impact can cause your jaw to be forcefully opened or stretched.  

In a frontal collision, the pain will likely occur due to compression of the jaw joint against the sternum upon impact. 

If you’re hit from the side, the jaw might be compressed to one side and stretched on the other. 

If an airbag is deployed during any of these types of collisions, that impact alone could easily injure the face or jaw. 

It’s important to know that people who have pre-existing temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) may be more susceptible to a jaw injury after a car accident. 

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What Are the Symptoms of Jaw Pain After a Car Accident?

A jaw injury can affect your ability to eat and drink or cause pain or sensitivity in your teeth or gums. Those who are suffering from jaw pain after a car accident may find it difficult to focus on daily tasks or even to sleep.

Aside from soreness, symptoms of jaw pain might include:

  • Locked jaw or limited jaw mobility
  • Clicking or popping when opening or closing the mouth
  • Pain in the neck or face
  • Migraines and other headaches
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Vertigo, nausea, or anxiety 

When Might the Symptoms of Jaw Pain After a Car Accident Appear?

TMJ symptoms are often delayed symptoms of a car accident. While symptoms may not appear immediately, they often occur within a month of the accident. 

It’s completely normal to experience jaw pain after a car accident and not realize it may be a result of the impact. 

But remember, jaw pain could be an indicator of more severe underlying injuries and should be assessed right away.

When To Seek Treatment for Jaw Pain After a Car Accident

As with any injury, getting treatment sooner is always better than later — especially when you’ve been in a recent car accident. Not all symptoms, including jaw pain, will manifest immediately. 

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, an assessment by your medical provider is in your best interest: 

  • Pain or tenderness of your jaw
  • Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
  • Aching pain in and around your ear
  • Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
  • Aching facial pain
  • Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth

Why Seeking Care for Jaw Pain Is Important

Jaw pain due to injuries often does not resolve on its own. Because the jaw is in constant use, even when you are lying still, it rarely has time to heal on its own. Besides the fact that jaw pain hurts, it’s important to get checked out to make sure your jaw pain isn’t the result of more serious issues, like a fracture. 

We at Cascade Spine & Injury Center specialize in auto accident-related injuries and offer a thorough evaluation to help properly diagnose your jaw pain. 

When you’re seen at our multidisciplinary clinic, we’ll take the time to run necessary tests, give a proper diagnosis, and create a custom treatment plan specific to your injury and recovery. 

Our in-house treatment options include:

  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic care; and
  • Physical therapy
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3 Injuries That May Cause Jaw Pain After a Car Accident

#1: Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ)

TMJ is an acronym that stands for temporomandibular joint. The temporomandibular joints are located on both sides of the face, just in front of the ears, and connect the lower jawbone to the skull. The TMJ joints assist in movements like chewing and speaking.

TMJ disorders are conditions affecting the jaw joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments, which can be caused by: 

  • Trauma, like a car accident
  • Arthritis; or 
  • Everyday wear and tear 

#2: Bruised Jaw

A bruised jaw might be bearable in the few days following a collision, but this type of injury can lead to longer-lasting ones like a misaligned jaw

If you’re having trouble fully closing your teeth or are experiencing swelling in your jaw joint, seeing a medical professional can help get you on the road to recovery. 

#3: Fractured Jaw

If you sustained a fractured jaw as a result of a recent car accident, the symptoms will likely be very clear. Extreme pain, followed by the inability to open your mouth, close it, or chew easily, could point to a fractured or broken jaw. 

However, initial symptoms may present like a TMJ injury, which is why seeking treatment right away is so crucial.

A medical professional will be able to assess whether surgery is needed. 

Why Jaw Pain After a Car Accident Isn’t a Stand-Alone Injury

Jaw pain often accompanies a head, neck, or back injury. 

Depending on the type of impact and where the car was hit will determine the likely root cause of the jaw injury. 

Common head, neck, and back injuries from car accidents are often caused by whiplash. Drivers and passengers can feel the effect of whiplash from the neck all the way to the lower back, in varying degrees. 

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What Does Treatment for Jaw Pain After a Car Accident Look Like?

Dr. McClaren at Cascade Spine & Injury Center is accredited as an Accident Reconstructionist by the Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstructionists and has extensive experience in treating whiplash and other traumatic injuries caused by car accidents.

As a new patient with jaw pain, you can expect your treatment plan to resemble the steps below. 

Evaluation

When you first come in for treatment, you’ll be seen for an evaluation to assess where exactly that pain is coming from and what is causing it. 

Is it possible the pain is rooted in a strained muscle in the front of your neck? Is there injury to one of your inner ears? 

These are the types of questions that will be answered during the evaluation. 

Chiropractic Adjustment

If the cause of your jaw pain is rooted in a TMJ diagnosis, our specialists at Cascade Spine & Injury Center will focus on what we do best — adjusting the neck.

A lot of the muscles that control the jaw are so close to the neck that when adjustments are made to the tone of the neck, it resets the jaw as well. 

Your chiropractor will examine your neck, jaw, and shoulders to ensure proper motion and alignment. If there are any joint restrictions, the mechanics of your neck and jaw can be altered. Chiropractic adjustments can help provide knowledge of the mechanics and optimal healing of the jaw.

Acupuncture

Targeting the mastication muscles, acupuncture can ​​help accelerate healing, reduce overall jaw pain, and improve many body systems. 

The number of acupuncture sessions you will need can vary depending on the severity of your jaw injury and if there are any underlying, related injuries. 

Massage Therapy

Massage can be used as a complementary treatment to chiropractic care and acupuncture or on its own. 

Manipulation of the mastication muscles can help:

  • Stimulate the lymphatic system
  • Reduce muscle tension
  • Increase joint mobility
  • Improve circulation
  • With the recovery of soft tissue damage 

Referral to a TMJ Specialist

For patients whose TMJ pain is not responding to the typical treatments, a referral to a specialist for further consultation would be appropriate. 

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How Long Does Chiropractic Care for Jaw Pain After a Car Accident Last?

While treatment can take a few months before pain is fully resolved, the majority of patients begin to experience relief within the first few weeks. 

Because jaw pain is not typically a stand-alone issue, it may take longer to fully resolve because more pressing issues or injuries are addressed first. 

Cascade Spine and Injury Center: Providing Relief for Jaw Pain After a Car Accident

Getting in a car accident can be jarring enough — let alone navigating whether or not the jaw pain you’re experiencing is a result or indication of a more severe issue. 

At Cascade Spine & Injury Center, our top priorities are helping you overcome your jaw pain and getting back to living your life comfortably. 

Our treatment plans are tailored to fit your unique needs and injuries. Treatment plans are constantly changing as you progress through our care and find your level of pain decreases. 

As a licensed rehab and exercise therapy clinic in Portland, we aim to help our patients restore and maintain physical, emotional, and mental healing.

Contact Cascade Spine & Injury today for an appointment.

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The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

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