Can Injury Cause TMJ Disorder?

A woman in Charleston, West Virginia, is garnering national attention after suing a snack-food brand when she broke her tooth on a safety pin found in one of the company’s products. The woman alleges that her implanted crown broke when she bit into the safety pin while snacking and watching television, and that she subsequently suffered loss of wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses, and temporomandibular joint disorder.

But is this possible? Can temporomandibular joint disorder come from an injury of this kind? Dr. Alexandra George of Wexford, Pennsylvania, is a neuromuscular dentist who treats patients with temporomandibular joint disorder every day. She says temporomandibular joint disorder – or TMJ disorder for short – can be caused by a variety of reasons, including injury.

“Temporomandibular joint disorder absolutely can be caused by an injury to the jaw,” says George. “We see it in sports and in car accidents all the time. There isn’t one way to experience TMJ disorder, nor is there one way to get it.”

And that makes sense – after all, the average human bite packs a whopping 171 pounds of pressure. Imagine all that force going into a safety pin and then into a tooth!

So, how can we prevent accidents like this from happening in our own lives? According to George, part of it involves slowing down.

“Take time to enjoy your food. Slow down and pay attention to what you are putting in your mouth,” George says. “You will enjoy your food more, feel fuller sooner, and you won’t be as likely to accidentally bite your fork or another foreign object.”

Other ways to reduce your risk of TMJ disorder? According to George, wear a mouth guard.

“If you play sports, wear a mouth guard. If you grind your teeth, wear a mouth guard. Protect your teeth and your jaw,” she says.

As for the case of the safety pin in the snack food, only time (and possibly a lawsuit) will reveal the truth.

Dr. Alexandra S. George

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alexandra S. George - D.D.S., L.Vl.I.F. on December 7th, 2018