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A woman with a toothache is sitting on a couch.

When someone hurts their jaw joint (called the temporomandibular joint or TMJ), it can lead to jaw problems (called temporomandibular disorders or TMDs). Many people with serious TMDs got them because they hurt their jaw joints. In fact, about 1 in 4 people with long-lasting TMDs have injured their jaw joints before. People with a history of chronic jaw injury have worse TMD symptoms than those without.

The lower part of our jaw sticks out, so it gets hurt often. That’s why most face fractures happen in the lower jaw, about 7 out of 10 times. Even if the jaw doesn’t break, the joint, or TMJ, can still get injured. Studies show that when the jaw gets a substantial hit, the space inside the joint can change, even if there’s no break.

In sports, players can hurt their jaw by getting hit with an elbow, a ball, or punches in boxing or martial arts. Sometimes, these injuries are not treated immediately, but they can be significant.

Car accidents can also hurt the jaw or temporomandibular complex. This can happen if someone hits their jaw directly if an airbag deploys or their neck snaps forward, like in a whiplash. If the jaw is hit so hard that it breaks, there are almost always other associated injuries.

Bike accidents can lead to jaw injuries and fractures too. Even though bike helmets help protect our heads, they can also make jaw injuries more likely. This is because the helmet puts more pressure on the jaw during an accident.

Sometimes people intentionally hurt each other, which can also lead to jaw injuries. In fights, the jaw is the facial bone that breaks the most. One punch can be as harmful as many punches. Women who face domestic violence also have a higher chance of having TMD or jaw problems.

Falls can lead to jaw breaks, whether by accident or during a fight. In some cities, falls are the main reason people break their jaws. If someone falls and breaks their jaw, they might have been drinking alcohol. About 33% of jaw injuries from falls are directly related to alcohol or drug use. And nearly half of people who are attacked and physically assaulted, resulting in a fall, also suffer from jaw injuries.

We use imaging studies to see if the jaw is broken. These studies evaluate jaw fracture, disc displacement, and TMJ disorder. If the imaging shows that the jaw is okay, but the person still feels pain, we can start comprehensive conservative management for acute TMJ injury.

Jaw trauma accounts for about 15% of all emergency room visits. A comprehensive exam of the temporomandibular complex should be performed when dental fractures are seen. Conservative measures should be started if any signs of TMJ injury are present.

When treating jaw injuries that aren’t fractures, it’s best to use a comprehensive treatment approach. This is because someone might have long-term jaw pain for many reasons, including arthropathies, ankylosis, and myofascial pain disorders. The goal is to fix the problem before it gets worse. This includes treating inflammation, muscle problems, and pain.

Since multiple targets may help prevent chronic TMD development, a multimodal approach to therapy is optimal.

Starting treatment as soon as injury or pain occurs is very important. The best time to start is right after the injury, up to 4 weeks later. Promptly starting treatment gives the best chance to prevent long-term jaw problems.

Trusted help for your dental injuries!

If you have recently experienced dental trauma, we can help.

There are many different treatment options for different types of dental trauma, but all rely on quick action. When you receive any kind of dental injury, please contact us as soon as possible. Our team will provide you with instructions on what to do and arrange your treatment appointment.

We have been trusted by Sacramento County residents for over 25 years, and we’ll help you keep your teeth and gums healthy.


Experienced, compassionate, trusted doctors available to treat your traumatic dental injuries.

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