How Botox Can Help TMJ and Headaches

by | May 8, 2020 | Dental Advice

We recently sat down with a patient who was suffering from TMJ disorder. Dr. Friedman  explained to the patient that this disorder was causing pain in his jaw and contributing to his frequent, inconsolable headaches. Then Dr. Friedman outlined a number of treatment options, including one that came as a bit of a surprise.

“Have you considered Botox therapy for your TMJ?”

Our patient did a double-take, “Botox for TMJ? I’ve never heard of that before, how does that work?”

Here’s what he told him.

Botox has been administered by dentists for years

What have you heard about Botox before? 

Most people know it as a beauty-enhancing product that gets rid of wrinkles and fine lines in the face. That’s true, it is! But think about what Botox does — it temporarily prevents nerve cell signals from reaching your muscles and reduces abnormal muscle contractions. With this in mind, you can understand how it can be useful for relaxing the muscles around your jaw, too.

In fact, Botox has a long history of medically therapeutic uses, all involving muscular conditions. Currently, Botox is used to treat over 20 different medical conditions, and there are more than 6 million Botox treatments administered each year.

Botox injections have been administered in dentists’ offices throughout the US for many years now. Some dentists do offer Botox as the finishing touch to a cosmetic dental treatment. 

Here in our office, the use of Botox in dentistry stems from one important goal… relieving TMJ pain and helping you feel your very best.

TMJ causes tightness in your jaw

To really understand why Botox can be an excellent jaw relaxing therapy, let’s take a moment and talk about your TMJ — otherwise known as your temporomandibular joint. This joint acts as a hinge for your mouth, allowing you to chew and speak.

Unfortunately, the TMJ is also very sensitive to stress — whether it’s physical, emotional, or even psychological stress. When you’re stressed, your muscles tense up and can cause a lot of problems for your mouth and jaw:

  • Sore cheeks and jaw
  • Swelling in your face
  • Pain around your neck and ears
  • Clicking noise in your jaw when you open and close your mouth
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Clenching and grinding your teeth (bruxism) 
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Neck and/or Shoulder pain
  • Shocking type of facial pain

This last point, bruxism, can be an issue even if you’re not suffering from a TMJ disorder. But they often go hand-in-hand.

Botox can help relax the muscles in your jaw

Botox for TMJ can be highly effective. One 2012 study found that Botox treatments significantly decreased pain and increased mouth movements for three months following the treatment. Another study found that symptoms improved in 90 percent of participants. And there are still many studies being conducted on this treatment even today!

Botox is typically recommended as a complementary treatment to other TMJ therapies, like night guards or physical therapy. But there may be cases where a Botox treatment is all that’s needed to get those muscles to relax.

Once you get those muscles around your TMJ to unclench, you’re going to notice some other changes too.

  • The frequency and intensity of headaches will be reduced or disappear
  • You might feel less anxious
  • You’ll sleep better
  • You’ll be protecting your teeth from the effects of bruxism!
  • Sensitive teeth may become less so

Here’s what you can expect from a TMJ Botox treatment

Have you ever received a Botox injection before? 

Many of our patients haven’t, so we’re very accustomed to answering lots of questions and are happy to do so. Most of the questions we hear are centered around what the procedure involves, so let’s start there.

Here’s what you can expect from a Botox for TMJ treatment:

  • We’ll work together to determine the number of injections you’ll benefit from.
  • You’ll likely receive several injections throughout your facial muscles, like your forehead, temple, and jaw muscles. Most of our patients report very little discomfort from these injections. A cold ice pack after treatment will usually feel good.
  • You can return to your regular daily activities as soon as you leave the office, but avoid rubbing or massaging your face for a few hours.
  • You’ll begin to feel some improvements within a day or two of treatment, but more often it takes several days before you’ll really start to notice a big difference.

That’s it! It’s really quite simple and the treatment will last about 3-4 months.

Are there any risks to Botox for TMJ?

There are a few reported side effects linked to Botox injections that we want all patients to be aware of. However, most of these possible side effects are minor, including:

  • Redness at the injection sites
  • Bruising at the injection site
  • Muscle weakness
  • Discomfort
  • Nausea

We’ll help you understand all the potential risks of Botox and ensure you feel comfortable and confident in your treatment.

A few additional at-home tips for relieving your TMJ after Botox

Whether or not you decide to invest in a Botox for TMJ treatment, we always recommend you try some at-home tricks for relieving stress and relaxing your face and jaw.

Here are some of our favorite methods that we’d love you to try out:

  • Try yoga, deep breathing, meditation, or massages (remember, avoid massaging your face immediately following a Botox treatment)
  • Be aware of your posture and avoid slumping or slouching
  • Recognize when you’re clenching your teeth and work to relax your jaw
  • Focus on keeping your teeth apart when not eating
  • Avoid constant chewing on gum, biting your nails, or eating too many tough or sticky foods

What questions do you have for us?

Dr. Friedman has been helping patients solve TMJ pain since 1996. He’s completed advanced training and continually educates himself on the most up-to-date techniques and therapies.

As a team, we’re committed to making sure we’re on the same page and you feel confident in your care before you commit to a treatment. Let us know how we can help. We’re happy to answer any and all questions about how Botox can treat TMJ disorder.

 Dr. H. Brett Friedman

Dr. H. Brett Friedman

Dr. Friedman earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Maryland, Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1996. For over 20 years, Dr. Friedman has been creating the smiles of his patients’ dreams. He believes that nothing should stand between you and a healthier smile.