Botox TMJ Treatment

You may have heard of Botox therapy for cosmetic purposes such as reducing facial wrinkles but, if you suffer from a TMJ problem you may not realize that Botox can also provide an effective treatment for the resulting jaw pain and headaches.

Botox can help with a TMJ disorder because it reduces abnormal muscle contractions in the jaw by temporarily blocking nerve cell signals. Botox was developed for medical applications before it became a popular aesthetic option, and was authorized as a medical treatment in 1989 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Botox is an abbreviation of Botulinum Toxin Type A. It’s produced from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which can be found in many natural settings including soil, rivers and the sea. Although the toxin is produced by the microbe that causes botulism food poisoning, Botox injections contain very small, targeted dosages that are safe, with few potential side effects.

What is a TMJ Disorder?

The temporomandibular joint relies on several muscles, ligaments and bones to work correctly, and any condition that hinders this function is classed as a TMJ disorder. Almost one-third of adults are believed to have some type of TMJ issue, many of them aged 20 to 40, and it’s more prevalent among women. Teens are also known to get TMJ problems.

When jaw muscles and joints stop working properly, it can result in severe tension headaches and sharp pains in the jaw. The temporomandibular joint can easily become overburdened. It enables the upper jaw to close on the lower jaw, so it has a lot to do on a daily basis – every time you eat, talk, laugh, yawn or swallow, for example.

TMJ ailments are the second leading cause of facial pain after dental problems such as toothache. They can cause intermittent or constant pain over many years, which may flare up in times of stress.

Causes of TMJ Disorders

If you suspect you have a TMJ disorder, it’s important to see a qualified medical practitioner. The exact cause of a TMJ problem is often difficult to diagnose and may be due to a combination of factors, including:

  • Emotional stress.
  • Physical trauma.
  • Wear and tear on the shock-absorbing disk in the joint.
  • Bruxism – teeth grinding or clenching.
  • Misaligned teeth.
  • Connective tissue disease.
  • Arthritis.
  • Genetics.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

The main symptom of a TMJ problem is discomfort such as:

  • Muscle pain in the face, neck or shoulders.
  • Headache.
  • Earache.
  • Pain like a toothache.
  • Pain when yawning.

Other symptoms of TMJ ailments include:

  • Tinnitus – ringing in the ears.
  • Facial swelling.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Dizziness.
  • Locking of the jaw.

Benefits of Botox Treatment for TMJ Problems

By relaxing muscles in your jaw, Botox can be highly effective as a treatment for TMJ issues.

A 2012 clinical trial concluded that Botox significantly lessened pain and improved oral movements for three months following treatment for TMJ disorders. Another study found that symptoms improved in 90 percent of cases.

Botox is generally regarded as complementary therapy alongside other temporomandibular joint treatments such as physical therapy or night guards. However, in some cases Botox treatment may be all that’s needed.

Benefits you can expect once Botox has relaxed your jaw include:

  • Less frequent, less intense headaches – or no headaches at all.
  • Relief from jaw tension.
  • Lower anxiety levels, including, minimizing lock jaw in cases of severe stress.
  • Better quality of sleep.
  • Teeth becoming less sensitive.

Botox Injections

Botox treatment is a minimally invasive procedure that’s generally straightforward and quick. The injections – requiring no lengthy preparation and involving little if any downtime afterward – are administered in a doctor’s office in a procedure than typically takes just 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the number of injections needed. Most patients see improvements within one or two days, with substantial relief within a week.

Discomfort associated with Botox TMJ injections is usually brief and minimal – the needles are extremely small and the area can be numbed with anesthetic cream.

Possible Side Effects

Potential side effects of Botox injections include bruising, swelling and inflammation. These problems can be prevented or minimized by finding a medical professional experienced in Botox therapy for TMJ disorders. You should also tell them whether you have any other medical conditions and whether you’re taking any medications.

Do Dentists Offer Botox TMJ Treatments?

You may be surprised to find that some dental offices offer Botox treatments for TMJ disorders. In fact, getting Botox treatment from a dentist can have several advantages. As experts with advanced training in facial muscle and bone structures, dentists are well placed to diagnose and treat TMJ issues.

Diagnosis can be key with suspected TMJ ailments – symptoms are numerous and often mistaken for other problems. The exact cause of temporomandibular joint disorders is not always apparent because they may be the result of many factors, including neck or head injury, teeth grinding or jaw misalignment.

While Botox therapy at a dental office – or anywhere else – can relieve TMJ pain for three to four months, there may be an underlying cause that can only be rectified with specialized dental treatment such as:

  • An orthotic appliance to stabilize the bite.
  • Orthodontic treatment to move teeth.
  • Replacing missing teeth.
  • Placing crowns or veneers on teeth.

Bear in mind, though, that only an estimated 20 percent of dentists are qualified to carry out Botox procedures.

Steps You Can Take Yourself to Ease TMJ Problems

Alongside Botox treatment for your TMJ problem, there are certain measures you can take yourself to further relax your jaw and face. These steps include:

  • Maintaining a good posture – avoiding slouching or slumping.
  • Being aware when you’re clenching your teeth, so you can focus on relaxing your jaw.
  • Keeping your upper and lower teeth apart when not eating.
  • Avoiding chewing on gum or biting your fingernails.
  • Cutting back on sticky or hard foods.

Practices such as yoga, acupuncture, deep breathing and meditation can also be beneficial in cases of TMJ disorders.