A new report shows that the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is going to be reclassifying TMJ, whiplash, and some concussions as “minor” injuries.

This doesn’t really affect us here in Michigan, where insurance coverage for these types of injuries is already spotty to nonexistent. However, it does raise the question about just how severe TMJ can be, and why we need to take it seriously right away. Car accidents are a leading cause of TMJ, and it’s important to remember that you can develop an injury without actually hitting your jaw, due to the effects of a whiplash injury.

An accident with cars where there is visible damage to both vehicles.

What Is a Minor Injury?

The regulations don’t exactly define why they consider TMJ a minor injury. Mostly, it seems to be a change in definition to save the company money. It forces people to prove that they’ve been injured and limits the compensation available.

However, there are some indications about minor injuries on the basis of how “incapacity” is designed. Incapacity is defined in relation to concussions that are now being considered minor. These injuries last for 16 weeks or less and doesn’t doesn’t interfere with the essential tasks of daily life.

In many cases, TMJ exceeds these definitional limits.

TMJ Can Be for Life

Critically, an injury that affects the temporomandibular joint, can have lifetime effects. Although there are experimental approaches that promise a cure, there is no proven way to cure TMJ–it’s an injury that you will likely have to deal with for life.

Successful treatment can reduce or eliminate the impact of the injury. But sufferers use treatments like an oral splint every night to avoid the return of symptoms. Even a solution like reconstructive dentistry isn’t a lifetime cure. The results can be long-lasting, with decades of symptom-free living, but the condition doesn’t go away, and it can still be exacerbated by unhealthy habits like too much chewing gum, chewing objects other than food, or clenching and grinding (bruxism).

Debilitating Injury

TMJ can also interfere with people’s ability to fulfill the essential tasks of daily life. For many people, TMJ can interfere with one of life’s most essential tasks: eating. People with TMJ often have to limit their diet to avoid aggravating their injury. They may switch to a soft-food diet or avoid eating foods that are too tall. In some cases, this can make it hard to get good nutrition.

TMJ can also affect people’s ability to talk. For some people, this is merely a nuisance in social circles, but for other people, this can seriously impact their job. People with TMJ may find they can’t speak for long and can’t speak very loudly. This can be very hard on counselors, doctors, performers, and professional speakers. Many singers have found that TMJ impacts their ability to perform, for example.

Don’t Treat TMJ as a Minor Injury

Hopefully, if you have TMJ as the result of a car accident or any other cause, you take it seriously. You also need to get treatment relatively soon, even if your insurance company isn’t going to pay much for your treatment. TMJ benefits from quick treatment because it’s a progressive condition. The longer it goes untreated, the worse the condition will be.

If you are looking for TMJ treatment in the Detroit area, please call (248) 480-0085 today for an appointment with TMJ dentist Dr. Jeffrey S. Haddad at the TMJ and Sleep Wellness Center of Michigan.