As a board-certified orofacial pain specialist in NYC and Long Island, I’ve used Botox® for TMJ treatment for over fifteen years. If jaw problems greet you upon waking up in the morning, limit your food choices, prompt you to take pain medications like Advil®, Aleve®, or Tylenol® on a routine basis, and have had a negative impact on your life, Botox® injections may be something for you to consider.
7 Common Questions About Botox® For TMJ Treatment
Botox® for TMJ treatment is a subject around which there is a considerable amount of confusion. To make the best decision for yourself, you should know what Botox® is, how it is administered for TMJ treatment, and how to choose the right health provider. Here are 7 of the most common questions I get from new patients and the answers:
What Is Botox®?
Botox®, or botulinum toxin, is what’s known as a neuromodulator. Neuromodulators reduce the ability of a muscle to contract to its maximum capacity. In Botox® for TMJ treatment, it is injected into your temporalis and masseter muscles, which are the muscles that enable you to bring your upper and lower teeth together.
When we inject Botox® into masseter and temporalis muscles, it partially inhibits their ability to tighten to their fullest extent. The result is a reduction in the force of jaw clenching and grinding – one of the common causes of TMJ pain. When the force is lessened, the pain being experienced is also often reduced.
Botox® can also reduce the bulk and size of your jaw muscles. Some patients come to my office simply seeking to change the shape of their jaw or reduce the size of their masseter muscles.
What’s The Difference Between Botox® For Wrinkles & Botox® For TMJ Treatment?
In your face, you have “muscles of facial expression.” These muscles enable you to frown, scowl, flare your nostrils, move your eyelids, and smile. To do so, they pull on your skin. As you age and your skin loses some elasticity, it causes wrinkles to appear.
Botox® injections have been found to effectively reduce or even eliminate wrinkles by reducing the ability of the muscles to pull on your skin. But, the forces of facial expression are always present, so the use of Botox® injections to reduce wrinkles is a lifetime commitment.
Botox® for TMJ treatment works differently – instead of injecting into your muscles of facial expression, the injections are into your “muscles of mastication” (your jaw muscles). During an office visit, Botox® is commonly injected into four to six areas in the masseter muscle and three to four areas in the temporalis muscles.
While skin wrinkling is a normal part of aging, overworked and symptomatic jaw muscles are not. They get that way for a reason, regardless of whether you’re 18 or 80.
Botox® can be a valuable tool to allow your jaw muscles to heal if your pain and stiffness persist after the risk factors that caused your TMJ problems have been identified, reduced, or eliminated.
How Long Does It Take For Botox® To Kick-In?
Botox® and other neuromodulators, such as Xeomin®, can be life-changing. But the benefits do not kick-in right away, and most people have to wait four days to a week before they experience the first indication of relief. Here’s why:
Your muscles contain and rely on a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine which enables them to contract. After Botox® injections, it will take a few days for your muscles to use up their supply of acetylcholine. When the level of acetylcholine drops and is not replenished to its normal level, the positive effects of the injections are usually felt.
How Long Will The Benefits Last?
The vast majority of TMJ patients that chose Botox® find that their symptoms are reduced even after the first injection visit, though not eliminated. The getting better process is slow, as it takes months for long-term muscle injuries to heal.
The best results are achieved when patients continue to complement the Botox® with a nightguard, jaw stretching exercises, a cautious diet, and ongoing efforts to pay attention to daytime jaw overuse behaviors. For most patients, there is a need for one or two additional injection sessions, spaced three months apart, so that the jaw muscles continue to get the rest they need to recover adequately. Within nine to twelve months, there is often a significant reduction in jaw muscle pain, tightness, and daily soreness.
How Many Injections Will I Need?
The full benefits of Botox® for TMJ treatment are typically not achieved from just one round of injections. Instead, you will likely require a series of injections spaced three months apart.
Botox® is, in most cases, not the first treatment you’ll be offered to reduce your jaw pain, soreness, stiff muscles, and motion limitations. The truth is that other treatments usually get the job done. Most of my patients get better by a combination of treatments such as modifying their diet, jaw exercises, massage, physical therapy, chiropractic care, medications, nightguards, and by non-Botox® muscle injections. And most importantly, trying to reduce or eliminate daytime jaw overuse behaviors such as nail-biting and teeth clenching.
What Are The Side Effects Of Botox® For TMJ Treatment?
Repeated injections of Botox® in masseter and temporalis muscles over a long period of time can cause some problems. If it is not administered properly, the result can be muscle weakness, and an acceleration of joint noises, making it difficult to eat certain foods. It could hollow out your temporalis muscles and flatten the contour of your face.
Therefore, it is of critical importance that when you seek a healthcare professional to administer Botox® for TMJ treatment, you choose one who fully understands the anatomy and function of the muscles of mastication and the risk factors that prompted your muscles to become overused.
Will I Need Long-Term, Botox® Injection Sessions?
There is always a small percentage of patients whose chronic jaw muscle pain (often years in the making) require ongoing Botox® injections, in a way similar to Migraine sufferers. Here’s why:Muscle pain occurs when muscle fibers are injured or overworked. Injured and overworked jaw muscles, often due to daytime clenching and nighttime grinding, a high level of lactic acid is produced. When the lactic acid builds up to a high level, a muscle’s nerve endings become excessively excited, which leads to persistent pain.
The pain is now not only in the muscles but in the nerves themselves. This condition is called sensitization (think of it as a sunburn). Sensitization is much more challenging to turn off than simple muscle.
Fortunately, Botox® can help nerve sensitization, but the results are harder to achieve and maintain. As a result, ongoing Botox® injections may be needed for some patients, with a frequency of three to four times a year without an absolute stop date. Careful attention is required for these patients to ensure their jaw muscles do not become excessively weakened.
Botox® For TMJ Treatment – The Bottom Line
If your problems have persisted for a long period of time and despite treatment by your dentist, you’re still suffering, the next step is to find a board-certified orofacial pain specialist that has experience using Botox® for TMJ treatment. If you are located outside the New York City metropolitan area, go to the website of the American Academy of Orofacial Pain here. Look for a specialist with the designation: Diplomate.
For those of you who live in the NYC metropolitan area or on Long Island, you can call my office to schedule a consultation at 212-265-0110 (or email at firstname.lastname@example.org).
You do not have to suffer every day from the pain and discomfort of TMJ. Relief is available.
More helpful information about Botox® from Dr. Tanenbaum: