Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome, or TMJ, is a common problem that occurs when your temporomandibular joint because inflamed. It can be caused by arthritis, trauma to your jaw, grinding your teeth, and other causes. For many people TMJ results in uncomfortable symptoms, such as jaw pain, headaches, facial pain, difficulty chewing, shoulder and neck pain, and a reduced ability to open the mouth. While there are many treatments for TMJ, one alternative therapy that shows some promise for TMJ pain is botox, specifically in patients who have had little improvement with conservative treatments. While it’s still considered an experimental and alternative treatment, it often eliminates the need for surgical intervention.
How it Works
When the temporomandibular joint is overworked, displaced, or inflamed, patients often deal with sharp jaw pain and tension headaches. Botox works by making the jaw muscles unable to move in the strong, often unconscious jaw movements that cause pain and headaches, relieving jaw tension. Only the areas of the jaw that are injected with the Botox are relaxed. In most cases, botox is injected into the masseter, frontalis, and temporalis, although botox may be injected into other sites in more severe cases.
One of the main benefits of using botox to treat TMJ pain is that your normal functions, such as biting, swallowing, and speaking, won’t be affected, but the discomfort and pain is usually reduced. Effectively treating your TMJ can also help prevent more serious dental issues that can result in loose teeth, gum disease, and tooth decay in the future. Some of the major benefits TMJ sufferers report after botox treatments include:
- Reduced problems with discomfort when using their jaw
- A large reduction in jaw tension
- Reduction of headaches that are caused by grinding the teeth at night
- Reduction in neck and shoulder pain
- Fewer problems with lockjaw
Is Botox for TMJ Pain Safe?
Botox has been used safely for many years and the FDA approved it for eye muscle conditions back in 1989. Later, in 2002, it would be approved for the treatment of facial wrinkles. Through the years botox has been approved as an effective treatment for chronic migraines, eyelid spasms, muscle stiffness, overactive bladder, and more.
How Long Does it Take?
Although the treatment will depend upon the number of injections your doctor gives, usually botox injections for TMJ only take about 10-30 minutes to be completed.
Will it Be Painful?
Some patients experience a small amount of pain with botox injections because of the injections, but pain is brief and minimal. It may feel like a small prick to the face. Using an anesthetic cream or a cold pack on injection sites can help reduce pain. For patients who are afraid of needles, short term sedation may be an option.
What to Expect Post Treatment?
Most patients notice that their muscle tenderness begins to disappear very quickly after having botox injections for TMJ. In some cases, you may deal with a bit of redness, numbness, and mild bruising around the site of the injection. Any wrinkles you have in the area that was treated with botox will probably disappear as well. Since botox treatment is noninvasive, you’ll be able to get right back to your normal activities. However, your doctor will probably recommend that you limit physical activity and avoid massaging or rubbing the area that was injected with botox.
Side effects can occur after botox treatment. Common side effects include respiratory infections, nausea, flu syndrome, and headaches. Symptoms usually disappear within the first week after treatment.
Many dental specialists are now offering botox as an alternative treatment for TMJ disorders, but you must remember that this is an off-label use that may not be the right treatment for everyone. It offers an excellent solution for some patients, particularly those who haven’t found relief from other nonsurgical, noninvasive treatments. Keep in mind, pregnant or nursing women should not be given botox treatments.
If you are looking for relief from TMJ pain and you haven’t had results with other treatments, you may want to talk to your dental specialist about botox. Together you can decide if this alternative treatment will reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.