How Botox Can Treat TMJ Disorders
Botox injections are common as a cosmetic procedure to enhance facial appearance but Botox can also treat TMJ disorders.
TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint. It connects the temporal bone of the skull (in front of your ear) to your lower jaw bone (mandible), enabling your upper jaw to close on the lower jaw.
A TMJ ailment may also be termed as TMD (temporomandibular disorder) or TMJ syndrome. It occurs when the jaw joints and muscles fail to function correctly. It’s typically a challenging and frustrating condition.
Your temporomandibular joint has to do a lot of work every day – when you talk, laugh, eat and swallow, for instance. If it becomes overworked or displaced, you can get sharp pains in your jaw and severe tension headaches.
According to the American Academy of Facial Esthetics (AAFE), Botox can be very effective in treating TMJ ailments and associated jaw pain and tension when injected into the facial muscles. The injections can also stop headaches and minimize lockjaw.
Botox relieves jaw stiffness by blocking the release of a chemical called acetylcholine, which contracts muscles around the jaw joint.
Nearly a third of adults are estimated to suffer from a TMJ disorder to some extent. The condition is common among those aged 20 to 40 – affecting more women than men – although teens have been known to get TMD.
Besides jaw and other facial pain, TMJ disorder can result in eating difficulties. It’s the second leading cause of facial pain after dental problems such as toothache.
What is Botox?
Botox – Botulinum Toxin Type A – is produced from Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium found in many natural settings.
It’s a highly versatile medical treatment. Apart from TMJ disorders, Botox is used in the treatment of muscle stiffness or spasms, eye problems, severe underarm sweating, migraines, and overactive bladder.
The bacterium was discovered in 1895 by a Belgian scientist after an outbreak of food poisoning in the Belgian village of Ellezelles. It took until the 1940s before the botulinum toxin was finally isolated in crystalline form.
Although Botox contains the same toxin that causes botulism – life-threatening food poisoning – it’s injected in small, safe, targeted doses.
Each Botox treatment relaxes muscles for three to four months to stop TMD pain and ease other symptoms.
A Simple Procedure to Combat TMJ Disorders
Botox injections for medical purposes were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1989.
Botox treatment for TMJ issues is a simple injection procedure – requiring no incisions or operating room. Botulinum powder diluted in saline is injected directly into neuromuscular tissue.
Any injection can hurt, but the needles used in Botox treatments are extremely small, so discomfort is typically minimal, and the area may be numbed with an anesthetic cream.
The length of the procedure depends on how many injections are necessary but should take no longer than 30 minutes – with minimal preparation and little if any downtime afterward.
Botox typically takes full effect in three days to a week. The effects generally last 12 to 16 weeks, although several factors may shorten or lengthen the period. These include:
- Your age – older people with slacker facial muscle may see results fade sooner.
- Your facial structure.
- Whether you smoke.
- Your diet.
- Whether you take good care of your skin.
- New or existing sun damage.
Some TMD patients get longer-lasting results with repeated treatments, while others appear to develop a resistance to the drug and need injections more often.
Can I Avoid Botox Side Effects?
Potential side effects of Botox include:
- Discomfort at the injection site.
You can help to minimize or prevent most Botox side effects by:
- Ensuring your practitioner is a respected medical professional experienced in Botox injections for TMJ disorders.
- Telling them about any health problems you have and medications you take.
- Following your practitioner's instructions.
Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis of TMJ Disorders
The precise cause of a person’s TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine and may be down to a combination of problems, including:
- Wear and tear on the shock-absorbing disk in the joint.
- Habitual teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism).
- Physical injury.
- Connective tissue disease.
- Teeth misalignment.
- Emotional stress.
The chief symptom of TMJ problems is pain, such as:
- Muscle pain in the face, neck or shoulders.
- Toothache-type pain.
- Pain when yawning.
Other symptoms of TMD include:
- Locking of the jaw joint.
- Blurred vision.
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) or hearing popping sounds.
- Facial swelling.
TMJ problems can be difficult to diagnose because there are so many symptoms that could indicate an underlying issue.
Primary care physicians who suspect a patient has TMD may order an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan or refer them to a dentist specializing in jaw problems, who can use special equipment to analyze the bite function.
Should I See a Dentist for Botox TMJ Treatment?
Botox treatment has become extremely popular as a minimally-invasive, non-surgical solution to improve appearance. This is due in part to these cosmetic procedures becoming more widely available – you can get cosmetic Botox injections at some dental practices, for example.
According to the American Academy of Facial Esthetics, Botox treatment is now an accepted standard practice in dentistry, with an estimated 20 percent of dentists qualified to carry out the procedure.
Some dentists now use Botox injections to treat TMJ issues. In fact, Botox was used medically before it became a cosmetic treatment. Its first application was in 1977 to treat strabismus, a condition affecting the eye muscles and causing crossed eyes.
As facial anatomy specialists, dentists are well placed to offer Botox treatment for TMJ disorders. They have advanced training in the oral and maxillofacial areas – from the forehead to the chin.
While the exact causes of TMJ disorder are still unclear, the condition is treatable, and a dentist experienced in TMJ ailments and Botox injections can relieve your pain and help to stabilize your jaw with measures such as orthodontic treatment, replacing missing teeth, or fitting crowns or veneers.
TMJ Tips for Helping Yourself
You can help to protect yourself against TMJ disorders by:
- Wearing appropriate safety gear when working, exercising or playing sports.
- Avoiding chewing gum.
- Cutting back on hard foods.
Home treatments to ease TMJ symptoms include:
- Essential oils.
- Controlled-breathing exercises.
- Yoga exercises focused on relieving jaw tension.
Remember, though, you need to see a qualified medical practitioner if you suspect you have a TMJ disorder.