Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders can significantly impact one’s quality of life, causing pain, discomfort, and limitations in daily activities like speaking and eating. While various treatment options exist, recent attention has turned toward the potential benefits of using Botox for TMJ disorders.
Botox injections aim to relax the jaw and relieve tension by targeting the muscles involved in jaw movement, providing much-needed relief for individuals suffering from TMJ disorders. This article delves into the procedure and explores the benefits, risks, and indications of using Botox as a treatment for TMJ disorders, shedding light on its potential to transform the management of this common condition.
What Is TMJ?
The temporomandibular joints (TMJ for short) are two joints connecting the lower jaw to the skull. TMJs are considered some of the most complex joints in the human body, comprising the mandible and the temporal bone. Their primary function is to assist with the movement of the lower jaw, allowing us to speak and chew.
Often, the acronym TMJ is used to describe various disorders with these joints. Usually, the joints are aligned with the surrounding tissue (muscles, ligaments). When any part of this system becomes misaligned or doesn’t work in sync with the rest, the temporomandibular disorder occurs.
Before proceeding with Botox treatment for TMJ, it’s important to determine whether this disorder is definitely the root cause of the patient’s discomfort.
Common symptoms of TMJ include:
- Jaw clicking and popping
- Pain in the jaw area
- Limited jaw mobility
- Grinding and clenching of teeth
- Misalignment of upper and lower teeth
Other seemingly minor issues, like headaches, ringing in the ears, and dizziness, usually accompany the symptoms. Patients often report increased teeth sensitivity and tingling sensation in fingers, both connected to the TMJ disorder.
As to what causes TMJ disorders, there are several factors at play. Some patients suffer from bruxism, involuntary clenching, or grinding teeth (usually during sleep). Any trauma to the jaw area or neck, as well as excessive straining of the jaw, can lead to TMJ problems. In some cases, it can be genetic, as well as connected to other clinical conditions.
How Does Botox Help TMJ?
Botox is a neurotoxin commonly used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines on the face. It’s one of the most popular injectables in the world. However, it can also help treat TMJ disorders (TMD), and this procedure has become increasingly popular as a way to relieve pain and discomfort.
When Botox is injected into the muscles around the TMJ, it blocks the release of acetylcholine, a chemical that stimulates muscle contractions. This causes the muscles to relax, reducing the tension and spasms that are the primary cause of TMJ disorders.
Botox injections are a minimally invasive treatment option for TMD, and the effects can last several months. However, it is important to note that Botox is not a permanent solution and will need to be repeated periodically to maintain the effects.
Botox treatment for TMJ is not suitable for all TMD patients, and a qualified healthcare professional should determine its use on a case-by-case basis. It is also important to note that Botox may have side effects, such as temporary weakness or drooping of nearby muscles. It should only be administered by a licensed healthcare provider.
Benefits & Risks of Treating TMJ With Botox
As previously mentioned, Botox isn’t a permanent solution for patients with TMJ disorders. The sole purpose is to provide relief. But, in doing so, it can help over time, as the muscles will become relaxed and reduce the intensity of the disorder once Botox wears off.
Patients who undergo Botox injections for TMJ can expect to feel relief in a very short time. They’ll regain jaw mobility and have less trouble chewing food. If they suffered from spasms, those symptoms will also go, or at least be reduced to a minimum.
As a therapeutic injectable, Botox has its advantages. It’s a minimally invasive procedure, meaning patients don’t have to undergo general anesthesia, but instead, the injector applies a topical anesthetic to the jawline. The whole procedure is quick and painless, taking under half an hour. Once the procedure is complete, patients can resume their daily activities as normal.
Botox is well-researched and has been in use for several decades. Therefore, there aren’t any major risks associated with these injections. That being said, patients should be aware of possible minor side effects, including:
- Bruising at the injection site
- Muscle weakness
- Redness at the injection site
Of course, patients with a history of allergic reactions to injectables should avoid treating TMJ with Botox. It’s also worth pointing out that the long-term effects of these injections are not yet fully known.
Additionally, all other indications for Botox injections apply here. That includes all the precautions if the patient is pregnant or a breastfeeding mother.
TMJ Treatment Procedure With Botox
The procedure for treating TMJ disorders using Botox injections doesn’t differ much from other applications of Botox that you can learn more about at Doctor Medica. Still, there are some minor differences, as this is a bit more complicated than fixing something like nasolabial folds.
It begins with the initial consultation and patient exam. As not every patient should undergo the TMJ treatment with Botox, it’s crucial to determine the course of their treatment. Of course, if their healthcare provider has confirmed the patient suffers from a TMJ disorder, you can guide the patient through the procedure and what kind of outcome they can expect.
Concerning the dosage, it’s not a completely cut-and-dry situation. On average, people get 20 units of Botox on each side. But, the researchers found out that female patients should receive a smaller dosage, more like the amount used for treating migraines. It’s highly recommended to start with smaller dosages if the patient hasn’t gotten Botox injections before.
Injecting Botox into the TMJ follows the standard injection procedures. Using a fine needle, inject a small amount of Botox into the muscles surrounding the joint, while adjusting the number of injections based on the severity of the symptoms.
Afterward, patients can continue with their daily activities but should follow some general aftercare rules. That means avoiding touching the treated area, lying on their face, and any strenuous activity for the first 24 hours. Specifically for TMJ, patients should try to stand or sit upright for the first several hours.
Alternative Treatments for TMJ
Several alternatives exist for patients who don’t feel that TMJ treated with Botox is an ideal solution. Their healthcare provider should advise them on how to treat the discomfort and pain caused by the disorder, including:
- Medications like muscle relaxers, painkillers, and anti-inflammatory drugs
- Switching to soft/liquid food
- Wearing a mouthguard during sleep
- Ice pack application
- Physical therapy
- Various relaxation techniques
- Radio wave therapy
Severe problems with TMJ may need to be surgically treated. These procedures vary from simple dental treatments like braces, bridges, or replacing damaged teeth, to arthroscopy and even open-joint surgery to replace the damaged joint.
Does Botox effectively help with TMJ? Yes, but only as a temporary relief as TMD is a very serious disorder that needs special care. This is not a permanent solution either, as Botox injections have to be redone every 3-4 months for this area to stay under control.
But, for pain relief, Botox is a great option for patients suffering from TMJ symptoms.
How long does Botox for TMJ last?
On average, after treatment with Botox, patients suffering from TMJ disorders should go pain-free for three to four months. This, of course, also depends on the amount of Botox injected and the severity of the patient’s symptoms.
What is the downside of Botox for TMJ?
The downsides of this treatment are common Botox side effects like headache, redness, swelling around the injection site, and minor bruising. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a solution for TMJ pain but just an alleviation.
Where do they inject Botox for TMJ?
Muscle tissue surrounding the TMJ is what’s treated using Botox. It is a muscle relaxer, after all.
Botulinum Toxin for Temporomandibular Disorders: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness, Cost-Effectiveness, and Guidelines; Philip la Fleur and Alison Adams; Feb 2020
The Role of Botulinum Toxin A in Treatment of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders: A Review; Rana Ataran, Ayla Bahramian, Zahra Jamali, Vahid Pishahang, Homayoon Sadeghi Barzegani, Parvin Sarbakhsh, and Javad Yazdani; Sep 2017
Preliminary Findings of the Efficacy of Botulinum Toxin in Temporomandibular Disorders: Uncontrolled Pilot Study; José A. Blanco-Rueda, Antonio López-Valverde, Antonio Márquez-Vera, Roberto Méndez-Sánchez, Eva López-García, Nansi López-Valverde; Jan 2023
Effect of multiple injections of botulinum toxin into painful masticatory muscles on bone density in the temporomandibular complex; Karen G. Raphael, Malvin N. Janal, Aditya Tadinada, Vivian Santiago, David A. Sirois, Alan G. Lurie; Sep 2020