- Botox can help treat many of the symptoms associated with TMJ.
- Botox should only be considered after exploring conventional TMJ treatments.
- Botox for TMJ may not be covered by insurance because it is not FDA approved.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder affects the hinge that connects the upper and lower jaw. It can cause severe headaches, chronic pain, and make it difficult to chew. TMJ affects 5-12% of the United States population, according to figures from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
There is currently no single cure for TMJ. Most conventional treatment options, including physical therapy, oral splints and surgical procedures, focus on reducing the severity of symptoms. Botox can sometimes play a role in alleviating symptoms among patients who don’t adequately respond to other treatment options.
What Causes TMJ?
One temporomandibular joint is located on each side of the jaw, connecting the jawbone to the skull. These joints are used very frequently to talk, chew, and when opening and closing the mouth. TMJ can be caused by arthritis, acute jaw injury or cartilage erosion, but often the exact cause is unknown.
How Can Botox Treat TMJ?
Botox is an injectable product primarily used to treat facial wrinkles. It works by injecting botulinum toxin type A into the muscles to block muscle activity. This also enables it to serve as a treatment to reduce some of the symptoms of TMJ, including tension headaches, jaw pain, and reduced mouth mobility.
How does Botox treat TMJ headaches?
Headaches are the most common symptom of TMJ. In fact, in a study of 2,375 TMJ patients, almost half (46.8%) were reported to suffer from TMJ headaches.
TMJ headaches are often caused by jaw tension and inflammation in the temporalis muscle, one of several muscles used to chew. Whenever you clench and unclench your jaw, the temporalis muscle contracts. Botox can be used to block activity in this muscle, thereby reducing the tension that causes TMJ headaches.
How does Botox treat TMJ jaw pain?
Jaw pain is also closely associated with TMJ. If the temporomandibular joints fall out of alignment or start showing signs of wear and tear as a result of overuse, they can cause pain in the muscles surrounding the jaw. Approximately 9.3% of people with TMJ grind their teeth, while another 28.5% experience jaw clenching, according to the study referenced above.
To address TMJ jaw pain, Botox is injected into the temporalis and masseter muscles, which are used in chewing. Reducing activity in these muscles helps to alleviate pain.
How does Botox treat poor jaw mobility?
TMJ can affect jaw mobility. When the muscles surrounding the jaw are overactive or grow too strong, they can become tense or strained, making it difficult to open and close your mouth. Botox weakens the facial muscles that control the jaw, making this less difficult. In one small French study, researchers discovered that using Botox to treat TMJ helped patients open their mouth significantly wider — an effect that lasted for three months after treatment.
Does Botox Work for Treating TMJ?
There are a number of studies showing Botox to be a valuable therapeutic tool for TMJ patients. For example, one 2016 study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain found that TMJ patients who had Botox treatments experienced a reduction in pain and headaches, consequently requiring fewer painkilling drugs. In 2003, a study from the University of Bonn found that 90% of participants who had not responded favorably to conventional treatments saw significant improvements after using Botox to address their TMJ-related pain symptoms.
Although the results are promising, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of Botox on TMJ. Botox is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in TMJ therapy. It’s also important to note that Botox only treats the symptoms of TMJ, not the underlying cause.
Botox should not be considered first-line therapy. Rather, it should be viewed as an alternative treatment that can be explored when conventional treatment options have been exhausted.
It may not be approved by the FDA, but the vast majority of patients who use Botox to treat TMJ-related symptoms find it to be effective. As many as 95% of patients who’ve received Botox for TMJ report that the treatment was worth it
What to Expect During the Procedure
Botox treatment for TMJ is a non-surgical procedure. It is usually performed in your doctor’s office and typically takes less than 30 minutes to complete.
The injection site can vary depending on your symptoms but may include:
- Temporalis muscle
- Frontalis muscle
- Masseter muscle
The injections are not considered painful, but you may feel a slight prick or pinch as the Botox is applied. Your provider may choose to use a cold pack or local anesthetic to reduce discomfort. After the procedure, you can return to your regular everyday activities more or less immediately.
How Long Do Results Last?
Botox is not a permanent solution for TMJ. Results tend to last for about three to six months. Many people use this temporary reprieve from pain to explore other treatment options that may provide more long-lasting results.
It may take a while to feel the results of Botox. As noted in a review published in Toxins, pain relief is at its greatest eight weeks post injection. You may be able to get another treatment after the effects wear off if you wish to maintain results.
Am I a Good Candidate?
You may be a good candidate if you have already exhausted other treatment methods and you are still experiencing TMJ symptoms such as:
- Jaw pain
- Overactive jaw muscles
- Reduced jaw mobility
How Much Does Botox TMJ Treatment Cost?
The cost of Botox TMJ treatment can vary quite significantly depending on your location, the severity of your symptoms, and the number of Botox injections you need. As a general rule of thumb, it may cost $500-$1,500 or more. Botox for TMJ is more expensive than getting Botox for wrinkles as more units are required to weaken the strong facial muscles involved with TMJ.
Is Botox TMJ treatment covered under insurance?
Most insurance providers do not cover TMJ Botox treatments as Botox is not FDA approved.
What Are the Side Effects of Botox For TMJ?
Botox for TMJ is generally considered quite safe. However, there are certain risks associated with injecting Botox around the mouth. Too much Botox can have an adverse effect on facial muscles, which may cause drooling or a fixed or lopsided smile.
Other common side effects include:
- Respiratory infection
- Flu-like illness
- Temporary eyelid droop
- Double vision
- Skin irritation
- Rash at injection site
It may not have FDA approval, but research and patient reviews show that Botox can be an effective tool for treating the symptoms of TMJ. It is important to remember that Botox should be considered an alternative treatment that is used only when other options have been exhausted.