Damage to the teeth and jaw is common in serious vehicle crashes. In many cases, people get dental injuries as part of catastrophic injuries, such as head injuries or whiplash, so they are often neglected while the more serious injuries are tended to.
Dental injuries can either be direct or indirect, depending on the circumstances. A direct injury occurs when the head or face slams into something during impact, such as the steering wheel, dashboard, or seats. An indirect injury occurs when the mouth closes abruptly, causing the top jaw to smash into the bottom jaw.
Types of Dental Injuries and Their Treatment
Some of the more common types of dental injuries include:
- Chipped or fractured teeth. These are generally not considered dental emergencies, although your dentist should check out the damage to your teeth and talk to you about repairs—especially if there are sharp edges that can damage the soft tissues of the mouth. Repairs might include dental bonding or a dental crown.
- Loosened teeth. If an impact from an accident has loosened one or more teeth, and there are no other serious injuries present, you should make an emergency appointment with your dentist right away to determine the extent of the damage.
- Avulsed tooth. When a tooth is completely knocked out of its socket, it is known as an avulsed tooth. It is sometimes possible to save the tooth, but immediate treatment is required. The best thing to do, if possible, is to put the tooth back into its socket and hold it there until receiving dental treatment. If that isn’t possible, you should keep the tooth moist in saliva (or milk) until you can see a dentist. The more time that passes between the incident and treatment, the less chance there is to save the tooth.
- Root fracture. A hard blow to the jaw can cause a tooth root to fracture, separating from the tooth. This is usually quite painful, and you should see an endodontist as soon as possible. The tooth might be able to be saved with a root canal, or it may need replacement with a dental implant.
- TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder caused by whiplash. Even a slow-moving car accident can cause whiplash, and there can be enough of a whipping motion to injure the jaw joint that enables your mouth to open, close, and chew. TMJ disorders can be painful and difficult to treat. Many patients experience headaches, jaw pain, and an inability to open and close their mouths. It’s crucial to seek medical treatment for this type of injury.
- Broken jaw. If you suspect you broke your jaw in a car crash, you need to go to the nearest emergency department as soon as possible. You will likely require surgery to reset the bones and install pins to hold the jaw together, then have your jaw wired shut for a period of six to eight weeks.
Possible Damages After a Dental Injury
X-rays and medical records will show the extent of your dental injuries, ensuring that your physician, dentist, and oral surgeon will know the best course of treatment. Your compensation after an accident could include dental treatment, including:
- Dental bonding
- Dental crowns
- Oral surgery
- Dental implants
You might also be able to recover damages for lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses. Be sure to seek medical treatment if your jaw or teeth affected in any way by the accident. Insurance companies like to pretend that dental injuries are not serious, but they can be painful and costly. A trip to your doctor can help underscore the seriousness of your situation.
Don’t Wait to Hire a Vehicle Accident Attorney
The longer you wait to hire an attorney, the more difficulties you may encounter. Don’t put off getting the financial help you deserve. Call Alaska attorney Ben Crittenden after an accident to get the care and damages you deserve. You can also request a free copy of his book, A Guide to Car Accident Claims in Alaska, to learn more about victims’ rights and the role of an attorney.