When you are involved in a car accident, your body is subject to a large number of strong forces all at the same time. Even a minor accident at a slow speed of 30 mph can create literal tons of force on the body. While you may notice some injuries immediately, other unexpected symptoms may begin to appear over time. One area that may begin giving you trouble, even after seeking whiplash treatment, is the head and neck, including jaw pain and a variety of ear issues, like a ringing or difficulty hearing. Jaw and ear pain can both indicate more severe problems that require immediate attention, so it is important to understand what these symptoms mean and how they can be treated.
Why Your Jaw May Hurt After an Accident
The only part of your skull that is actually able to move is your jaw, also known as your mandible. While we associate our jaws with the chin, it is actually much larger. The hinge of the jaw begins at the cranium, right in front of your outer ear, allowing for complex movement that enables you to have a broad range of motion and exert a large amount of force when your jaw moves, like when you bite or chew.
Because of this versatility, the jaw muscles are actually somewhat fragile. Any stress to the jaw can cause a disruption to normal daily activities like eating, sleeping, or talking. If you have issues in the muscles or ligaments surrounding your jaw, this is known as TMJ disorder, named for the joint that connects your jaw to the rest of your skull. Symptoms of a TMJ disorder include pain at the site of the joint, tenderness in the jaw, difficulty with chewing, headaches, ear and facial pain, or a feeling that your jaw is “locked” and unable to move.
TMJ injuries often occur as a result of a heavy impact to the neck or skull area. It is a car accident injury that occurs when your head physically strikes something like a window, dashboard, or airbag. In these cases, your jaw is likely to be affected. Additionally, the sudden back and forth movement that may lead to you seek whiplash treatment can also lead to TMJ symptoms that need attention. A simple sprained joint or broken jaw bone may also indicate movement that can contribute to brain injuries.
Jaw disorders often do not resolve on their own, because the jaw is in constant use, even when you are lying still. Because of this and the relation of jaw injuries to traumatic brain injuries, any jaw pain should be seen by a doctor.
Why Your Ears May Ring After an Accident
Like your skull, the inner ear is a fragile and complex portion of your skull. It can be impacted by not only force and pressure, but changes in the air pressure or cabin shape. In a car accident, any debris that flies can cause a blow to the ear, or general conditions can cause pressure that damages your ear canal.
If your ear has been injured, it is common to experience trouble hearing or the feeling that your ear is “clogged” in some way, dizziness, pain, nausea, and a ringing in the ears. These can be common symptoms in the aftermath of an accident, and may even indicate whiplash. However, more severe symptoms like bleeding or fluid discharge need to be seen immediately as they can indicate a skull fracture or spinal injury.
The Importance of Having Ear and Jaw Pain Evaluated
All injuries that result from a car crash should be evaluated as soon as possible, and not all serious conditions will display signs immediately. Therefore, it is important to begin seeking treatment immediately so that you can identify any dangerous issues and begin your general or whiplash treatment early.
How long should you wait to go to the doctor after an accident? Well, jaw pain, ear pain, trouble with chewing or swallowing, ringing in the ears, headaches, or any similar conditions should be brought up to your medical provider as soon as you notice they are an issue to rule out any serious conditions.
If you are experiencing these problems or are in need of other services after a car accident, AICA Orthopedics offers a range of specialists and treatment plans. Whether you are seeking whiplash treatment, a full evaluation after an accident, or help with jaw and ear pain, AICA Orthopedics is prepared to help. We specialize in car accident victims, building personalized plans with a multidisciplinary approach to recovery.