What To Expect From Botox For Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)

Many people have heard of Botox for cosmetic procedures, but it’s a substance with a wider use than just filling wrinkles. Doctors use Botox to treat migraines, excessive sweating, neck spasms, and TMJ disorders.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are common. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)  states that as many as 11–12 million Americans have TMJ pain and disorders. There are more than 30 temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) causing dysfunction and pain in the jaw muscles and joints.¹

So, does Botox work for TMJ disorders? Let’s find out.

What is Botox?

Botox®  refers to botulinum toxin type A, a protein produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.

There are several types of botulinum toxin injections. They include;

  • Botox

  • Xeomin

  • Myobloc

  • Dysport

These injections work differently and have different uses. You should consult your doctor to determine the one that suits your needs.

How does Botox work?

Botox manages the release of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger responsible for most involuntary functions, such as digestion. Acetylcholine also regulates the actions of some muscles. Typically, the chemical acts on smooth muscles in areas such as the eyes and blood vessels.

What conditions can Botox treat?

Your doctor may recommend Botox injections for conditions such as:

Cervical dystonia

The condition involves involuntary contraction of the neck muscles, which may limit your head movements. In some cases, your doctor may use Botox injections to relax the neck muscles.

Lazy eye

Imbalances of eye muscles may cause problems with eye movements. Your doctor may treat a lazy eye with Botox injections to stop individual muscles from working for a while, reducing symptoms.

Muscle contractures

Some conditions, such as cerebral palsy, may make your muscles act unusually. Your doctor may recommend Botox injections to correct specific muscle issues.

Hyperhidrosis

This condition is where you sweat excessively regardless of the temperature of your environment or body.  Botox injections temporarily affect the nerves, blocking the chemical signals that stimulate the sweat glands. 

Chronic migraine

Your doctor may recommend Botox injections to treat frequent debilitating headaches. Researchers believe Botox works for migraines by blocking pain signals and relaxing the muscles in the head.²

Bladder dysfunction

Muscle problems may also cause conditions such as an overactive bladder. Botox injections stop the bladder walls from squeezing too much, reducing the frequency of urination and incontinence.

Eye twitching

Doctors often use Botox injections to correct how facial muscles work. Your doctor may recommend Botox to correct eye twitching.

What is the TMJ?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the mandible (jaw) and the skull. The joint is in front of your ears on either side of the head. The primary role of the TMJ is to open and close when speaking and eating.

There are several temporomandibular disorder (TMD) symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty in moving the jaw

  • Facial pain

  • Tenderness and pain in the joint

 Luckily, TMDs are treatable. However, diagnosis may be challenging.

How effective is Botox in treating TMJ disorders?

Botox is effective in the treatment of TMJ disorders for some people. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Botox for TMD treatment. Botox injections can relieve pain and ease mouth movements.

What are the side effects of Botox for TMJ treatment?

You may experience the following side effects after using Botox injections for TMDs:

  • Respiratory infections

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Temporary eyelid droop

  • Flu-like illness

Botox may have a temporary paralyzing effect, so you may have a fixed smile for some time.

Other side effects may appear shortly after treatment, including:

  • Muscle weakness

  • Pain

  • Redness or bruising at the injection site

What happens during the procedure?

As Botox treatment is non-surgical, your doctor may treat you in their office. The treatment session may also be short, especially after the initial assessment. As the effects of Botox are temporary (lasting 3–12 months), patients commonly opt for multiple treatments. 

Every Botox treatment is unique, and your doctor will determine the number of injections you need for your TMD. The injections could be to your temple, jaw muscles, or forehead, but your doctor will decide on the best locations. 

Botox injections feel similar to other shots, causing a prickly feeling or momentary slight pain or pressure.

The treatment may take some time to be effective, and you should follow your doctor’s advice.

How much does Botox cost for TMJ treatment?

The cost of Botox injections for TMJ treatment varies significantly. First, ask your insurer whether they cover the treatment cost. Insurers will determine their coverage of Botox injections for therapeutic and cosmetic purposes based on factors such as FDA approval.

Other factors may determine the charges, such as the pricing policy at your hospital. Consult your doctor about the cost of the treatment.

What are other treatment options for TMJ besides Botox?

Botox injections are among several treatment options for TMJ. Other surgical and non-surgical treatment options for TMJ include:

  • Acupuncture

  • Relaxation techniques

  • Surgery on the mandible

  • Arthrocentesis: A minor surgery to remove inflammatory tissue from the affected area

  • Arthroscopy: A minor surgery that uses special equipment to treat TMJ

  • Open joint surgery

  • Mouth guards or oral splints

  • Physical therapy

  • Muscle relaxants

  • Medications such as pain relievers

Consult your doctor to determine the most appropriate treatment options for you: They may combine several treatment methods.

What are the risks of treating TMJ with Botox?

Botox injections are safe for clinical use. The effectiveness of the treatment is case-relative, so it’s best to follow your doctor's advice to get the best results.

The lowdown

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) links the skull and the mandible. Pain in the area is common with temporomandibular disorders (TMDs). One treatment option for TMD is Botox. There are several types of Botox injections, and your doctor will guide you on the most effective solution based on their assessment of your condition.

Botox treatment typically involves injections in the forehead, temple, and jaw muscles. While these injections are safe, they may come with side effects such as headaches and nausea. 

The beneficial effects of Botox last for a short time, and your doctor will schedule appointments based on your treatment needs.

References:
  1. TMD (temporomandibular disorders) | NIH: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

  2. Therapeutic use of botulinum toxin in migraine: mechanisms of action (2014)

Other sources:

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