A car accident can leave people with a wide range of injuries that have a significant impact on their lives. These include injuries to the head, neck, or back.
Another injury we often see in car wrecks involves facial trauma - and this includes everything from broken jaws to dental injuries.
These facial injuries can occur in all types of car wreck cases - from head-on collisions to rear-end collisions, as well as side impact crashes.
The injuries can be caused by a variety of things in the collision.
- Shattered glass from the windshield
- debris flying around inside the car
- physical contact with the dashboard or steering wheel
- contact with a side window
I've seen statistics that tell us as much as 70% of people involved in car wrecks sustain some kind of facial injury or trauma.
What are some of the more common facial injuries we see?
The number one thing we see is BRUISING to the face.
The majority of the time, this occurs when the person's face hits the steering wheel.
There will be significant swelling in the area, followed by bruising.
Another injury we see involves cuts or lacerations to the face.
This could include:
- cuts to the lips
- cuts to the cheeks
- a laceration of the tongue
- scrapes all over the face and the head
In a car wreck, it's not just flying glass from a broken windshield or side window that can cause damage. Practically anything in the confines of the passenger compartment essentially can become a flying projectile that can cause serious damage.
Here are some other injuries we see.
When the face hits the steering wheel or the dash with a lot of force, then bone fractures are certainly a possibility. Remember, there are at least 14 bones in the face.
With high-speed collisions, one can easily imagine the force that is generated when two vehicles collide. Some of the older model vehicles on the road are not equipped with airbags.
So we will often see our clients sustain:
- A broken nasal bone;
- A fractured jaw - either the upper or the lower jaw;
- A fractured cheekbone; or
- A fractured eye socket
It is so important for us to point out - anytime that there is damage to the facial bones, there is also a huge risk of some permanent deformity. Of course, it depends upon the severity of the force and the extent of the damage to the facial bones, but we've seen problems like sunken cheekbones result because of the facial injuries our client sustained.
These deformities can have a lasting effect on a person's appearance - and our clients are not only seeing plastic surgeons but also counselors to help them cope emotionally with the injuries.
These injuries that we are discussing are not just physical problems. It is only natural - especially with women, for them to feel very self-conscious about the scarring or deformities that can result so it is very important for us to work with them on finding the appropriate psychological counseling as well.
And there are dental issues that can result from car wrecks.
We've seen all kinds of problems.
- Broken or chipped teeth
- Teeth knocked completely out
- Damage to dentures
- Clients having persistent toothaches from gritting their teeth at impact
- And TMJ - temporomandibular joint injury.
TMJ can be very painful! The temporomandibular joint is where the person's lower jawbone attaches to the skull. It is located on both sides of a person's head, just in front of the ears. This is the area that allows a person to check, talk, or yawn.
Whenever someone has a TMJ injury, they can experience:
- tenderness or pain in the jaw - especially when chewing
- pain or pressure around the ear
- discomfort when talking or yawning
- clicking in the jaw
TMJ injuries often occur after one of two things happen:
(1) The person's jaw strikes the steering wheel, dash, or side window
(2) When the person's head is whipped backward and forwards very quickly - an acceleration/deceleration injury. This often occurs in rear-end collisions or head-on collisions.
The force of the impact can cause the jaw to damage the soft tissue - the muscles and tendons in this area.
There are essentially three things that can be done when a person has a TMJ injury:
(1) A course of prescription medications, including painkillers, muscle relaxers, and anti-inflammatories.
(2) A dentist may prescribe a bite guard or night guard. This will help keep the jaw relaxed at night and prevent grinding of the teeth.
(3) Surgical intervention is also an option in the more extreme cases of TMJ.
Concerns We Have When A Client Calls After A Wreck Suffering Facial Injuries
Whenever a client calls our office after a wreck, and they have suffered facial injuries, we have two immediate concerns:
First, we want to make sure our client is getting the appropriate medical care for their injuries.
Obviously, if a client has any facial fractures, chiropractic care is certainly not appropriate for them and their injuries. We make sure they have an opportunity to be examined and treated by an orthopedist. If the injury is facial lacerations, a plastic surgeon is warranted. TMJ requires an examination by a dentist and possibly an orthodontist, depending upon the degree of the injury.
And second, we want to DOCUMENT the injuries by having a professional photographer take pictures of the injuries. The old saying is so true - "A picture is worth a thousand words." It's one thing to talk about the physical injuries, it is another thing for a jury to actually see the severity of the injuries in photographs. A professional evidentiary photographer knows exactly how to capture the injuries on film to show the degree of injuries and scarring using the correct lighting. We tell our clients to take lots of photos, but it is worth the money for us to hire a professional photographer to ensure the injuries are properly memorialized.
If you were hurt in a car wreck, please - don't rely on the insurance company to tell you what your case is worth. And don't take someone else's opinion on value. You need an experienced personal injury attorney to review your claim and have ALL the facts.
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