Botox quickly gained a stellar reputation for its ability to combat fine lines and wrinkles. Now the neuromodulator is being applauded for its ability to: help realign lazy eyes (when injected into a key eye muscle); give the appearance of a longer face (when injected into the chin); mitigate hyperhidrosis (also known as excessive underarm sweating); relieve migraines; and even relieve an overactive bladder. Also, if you suffer from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, a group of facial bone disorders that can cause severe pain, tenderness, and a decreased range of motion in your jaw, Botox can help with that, too.
What is ATM?
Before revealing the correlation between Botox and TMJ, it helps to know what TMJ is from an all-encompassing point of view. Short for temporomandibular joint, TMJ is a disorder that resides in the actual jaw joint. It’s important to note that TMJ is often confused with TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder), which is actually the category assigned to a handful of disorders that can affect the jaw joint. In simple terms, TMJ refers to the joint itself, while TMD refers to disorders that can wreak havoc. in the joint
“TMD/TMJ problems are orthopedic problems involving muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons,” says orofacial pain specialist Donald R. Tanenbaum, DDS, MPH. “Common problems are joint sprains, tendon strains and muscle problems, such as pain, spasm, inflammation and tension.” The cause of these symptoms is simple: overuse.
“Behaviors and habits such as biting nails and cuticles, and contact or clenching of the teeth, overload the muscles of the jaw, which can lead to muscle injuries and symptoms of pain, limited jaw movement, inability to bring the teeth together normally and/or lockjaw,” says Dr. Tanenbaum. “In addition, grinding and clenching your teeth during sleep can also overload and fatigue your jaw muscles, leading to morning headaches, sore jaw muscles, tooth pain, and limited jaw movement.
Does Botox really help with TMJ disorders?
Think about how Botox works: It’s designed to inhibit muscle contraction. As such, injecting Botox into the masseter (the muscle that is largely responsible for jaw movement) can, in effect, alleviate the overstimulation of certain daily habits that can lead to TMJ problems. But do not worry! Getting Botox will not make it impossible to open your mouth or make it difficult to speak.
“Botox doesn’t stop muscle contraction but it does reduce the intensity of the contraction,” says Dr. Tanenbaum. “Because it works by reducing a muscle’s ability to contract and tense as vigorously as usual, it can help overworked muscles begin to relax and return to health.”
All this to say: Yes, Botox for TMJ really does. does it to work. “Botox injections can help reduce the common symptoms of TMJ pain, discomfort, tightness, tension, and fatigue,” says Dr. Tanenbaum. (But remember: This is still a relatively new practice. Most Botox for TMJ studies insist that more research is needed to definitively prove the benefits of the treatment.)
One thing to keep in mind: Botox is not the answer to all TMJ/TMD problems. According to Dr. Tanenbaum, it is not used regularly to treat problems with clicking and locking of the jaw.
Botox for TMJ Logistics
Although the masseter is the largest muscle in the jaw, Dr. Tanenbaum says that for the most effective treatment, Botox should be injected into the temporal bone to treat TMJ.
“[The masseter and temporalis] bring the teeth closer together from an open-mouth position,” he explains. “These are called jaw lifters. Sometimes it is also necessary to inject the muscles that open the jaw, called the lateral pterygoids. [But] for the most part, the temporal and masseter are the focus of Botox injections.”
Given the size of the jaw muscles, more Botox units are needed to adequately relieve tension. “Typically, 25 to 30 units of Botox are needed in the right and left masseter muscles, and 20 units in the temporalis muscle,” says Dr. Tanenbaum. After receiving the injection, he says most patients feel relief within five days, however, the most noticeable benefits appear around two to three weeks, with full benefits lasting up to eight weeks. So, just like with facial botox, it’s important to know that the results won’t last forever.
Side Effects of Botox for TMJ
When Botox is injected into the forehead, there is minimal concern of a frozen expression or a droopy eyelid. While rare, it is possible. Similarly, Botox for TMJ has potential side effects, but they are rare. “Side effects only occur if the Botox isn’t injected in the right places, causing lip drooping,” says Dr. Tanenbaum. “Otherwise, patients can chew, swallow and talk without worry.”
The downside of Botox for TMJ
When considering Botox for TMJ, Kate Zoumboukos, DMD of SW Austin Dental, mentions the cost of Botox. Although the neuromodulator is believed to have a strong benefit-risk ratio (and the Journal of Oral Maxillofacial Surgery agree), the high cost of treatment may drive it off the table for many people.
Costs aside, Dr. Tanenbaum says that as effective as Botox for TMJ may be, he’s not suggesting it as a stand-alone therapy. “It should be supplemented with education, strategies to change jaw overuse behaviors during the day, jaw stretching exercises, breathing exercises to keep jaw and neck muscles relaxed, oral appliances for sleep to reduce the impact of bruxism and the management of life stressors. He shares. “These treatments are often helpful on their own or make Botox treatments more beneficial.”
Food to go
Before modern medical advances, TMJ used to be relieved without the use of neuromodulators. Although possible, Dr. Tanenbaum says that Botox is now a valuable treatment that has helped countless patients.
“It has been a great advantage to use it in patients who could not tolerate a bite appliance while they slept, or [who] it got worse using them,” says Dr. Tanenbaum. “It has also helped patients who used to brace their jaw muscles during the day, or who lived with their teeth close together, to change these behaviors, resulting in comfortable jaw muscles and fewer facial/temporary headaches than They showed up during the day.
Still, Dr. Tanenbaum says Botox shouldn’t be viewed as a solution for eternity. Instead, Botox for TMJ should be used to initially relax the jaw in a way that helps the patient work comfortably to reduce jaw tensing behaviors. After all, you don’t want to overuse TMJ Botox. “Continuous injections over several years can excessively weaken the jaw muscles and cause facial thinning that the patient may not want,” says Dr. Tanenbaum. “On the other hand, some patients only come to see me to reduce their square facial profile by slimming down the masseters.”