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Three Major Dental Injuries as a Result of Auto Accidents

Three major dental injuries as a result of auto accidents

Injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident can range from minor to fatal.  Dental injuries are common; and as a DC personal injury lawyer might attest, thousands of drivers and passengers suffer dental injuries from motor vehicle accidents every year.

Causes of dental injuries in motor vehicle accidents

In the short one or two seconds of a motor vehicle crash, both internal and external risks may cause direct dental injuries. Just some of those internal risks involve:
  • Seats
  • Dashboards
  • Air bags
  • Personal property within the vehicle
  • Glass fragments
Dental injuries might also result without any trauma to the mouth, known as indirect dental injuries.  Many whiplash victims seek treatment for dental injuries as a result of auto accidents; injuries may include:
  • Loss of teeth: When a tooth is knocked out because of trauma and is completely removed from its socket, it's said to be avulsed.  Whether a tooth or teeth get avulsed largely depends on the nature and magnitude of the impact.  Higher speeds usually increase the risk of at least one avulsed tooth. A favorable prognosis might exist if the lost tooth is replanted within an hour.
  • Fractured teeth: For the most part, dental fractures will require treatment by a dentist.  Teeth are composed of three layers: enamel, dentin and pulp. The least serious fracture is an Ellis I fracture when the enamel is broken.  An Ellis II fracture extends beyond the enamel and into the dentin layer. With an Ellis III fracture, the tooth is broken all the way down to the pulp.  A serious fracture would likely require an extraction and implant. Less serious fractures like chips are usually treated with fillings or bonding.
  • Temporomandibular joint injuries: The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) attaches your lower jaw to your skull. It's the most frequently used joint in the body. We use it to talk, chew, yawn and laugh.  When a TMJ injury occurs, the victim probably suffers jaw joint and facial pain.
Other symptoms of TMJ may include:
  • Headaches
  • Pain inside of one or both ears
  • Ringing in one or both of the ears
  • Grinding pain when chewing
  • Pain at the top of the neck
A dentist's treatment of a TMJ disorder most likely involves a custom fitted temporary dental appliance to be worn around the house and while sleeping.  Surgery is only required in a small minority of TMJ cases.People who have suffered dental injuries in motor vehicle accidents that were the fault of somebody else might be able to seek compensation.  Issues may arise with chipped teeth, as a liability insurer might believe dental treatment to be nothing more than cosmetic dentistry.  However, according to the American Association of Endodontists, chipped teeth are the most common dental injuries in motor vehicle accidents.  Insurers may also be skeptical about TMJ injuries, especially if there was no direct trauma to the mouth involved.If there's any indication of a dental injury after an accident, you may want to seek immediate dental treatment.  The longer that a person waits for treatment, it is likely easier for the other side's insurer to argue that the dental injuries were caused by something other than a motor vehicle accident.Thanks to our friends and co-contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their added insight into car accident and personal injury practice.
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