Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain can cause severe headaches, earaches, jaw clicking, and difficulty chewing. These painful afflictions lead to many sufferers seeking different treatment methods in the hope of some relief.
In recent years, Botox has been touted as a treatment method, with some giving it the status of a miraculous cure-all. There’s no denying that it can offer relief, but if you’re considering using it for that reason, there are a few things you should know.
The TMJ consists of the various structures that connect the lower and upper jaw. The structures, including joints, tendons, and muscles, play an important role in chewing. Most of the TMJ pain you feel originates within them when they’re affected by temporomandibular disorders (TMD).
There doesn’t seem to be a singular cause of TMD; instead, it appears to be brought on by factors such as grinding your teeth, stress, and hormonal changes.
What Botox Does For TMJ
Botox, which contains botulinum toxin type A, is usually used to tighten the skin. It softens the look of frown lines, forehead wrinkles, and crow’s feet by causing mild paralysis of the muscles it’s injected into. When used to treat the pain caused by TMD, it paralyzes various jaw muscles, which can reduce the symptoms.
The masseter muscles are those most common target points for injections. They connect the cheekbone and lower jaw, and they’re vital for chewing food. When the correct dosage of Botox is used, it stops them from being overworked, such as through grinding teeth. It does this by relaxing the muscles where you feel TMJ pain.
Potential Complications Of Botox For TMJ
Speaking to an ELLE journalist about the use of Botox to treat TMJ, Dr. Nancy Samolitis of Facile Dermatology and Boutique in Los Angeles warned potential users of potential complications. She also recommended that they find an experienced provider with a good reputation for administering the injections.
According to Dr. Samolitis, one reason it’s important to approach an experienced provider is because anything less than an excellent understanding of facial anatomy can lead to unpleasant complications. If the provider injects the wrong muscles, such as those used when smiling, it may not do much to alleviate TMD symptoms, and it could prevent you from smiling for several months.
Dr. Samolitis explained that paralyzing the wrong muscles could happen on only one side of the face, which would result in a crooked smile, rather than the inability to smile. Furthermore, there’s no way to correct the injection of Botox into the wrong muscles.
The only solution is to wait for the effects of the toxin to wear off. Besides the possibility of losing your ability to smile due to the provider’s unfamiliarity with facial muscles, there are several other possible complications of using the toxin to treat TMJ. Among them are the loss of facial volume, the temporary nature of the treatment, the development of antibodies after repeated treatments, and the atrophying of facial muscles.
Loss Of Facial Volume
When the masseter muscles are relaxed using Botox as a treatment for TMJ pain, they make the jaw look slimmer. While there are some people who opt for the treatment for this very reason, Dr. Samolitis cautioned that it can cause issues later.
One of the earlier potential complications is that, if those muscles are not overdeveloped, their relaxation can lead to the loss of facial volume and jawline definition. Although this isn’t too much of a problem in younger people, if you’re older, you may find much more loose skin than you bargained for.
If you are concerned about your appearance, you would need to budget for supplementary Botox or temporary filler treatments. Once the Botox wears off and the masseter muscles are exercised again, your original jawline definition should be restored. This, along with the following potential complications, highlight the reasons traditional TMD treatments and the more advanced options such as JawTrac, which aims to find the best position for your jaw, may be a better option.
Immune Response And Muscle Atrophy
According to Dr. Daniel M. Laskin of the TMJ Association, the repeated use of Botox to treat the symptoms of TMD can lead to the development of an immune response. The antibodies your body may produce could render the treatment useless by blocking the toxin’s muscle paralyzing action.
Even if your body’s response isn’t that extreme, you would more than likely require stronger and stronger doses of Botox to achieve the same effect. The sites that are injected may experience swelling or bruising, and may become painful. Additionally, you could develop headaches as a result of Botox use, despite the fact that it’s also used to treat migraine symptoms.
Dr. Laskin wrote that he was also concerned about the possible development of disuse atrophy in people who use Botox to treat TMJ symptoms. Although he had not seen it in any patients, the condition was evident in people who used injections of the toxin into the temporalis muscle to treat headaches. He explained that the disuse of muscles can lead to the loss or wasting away of tissue, which may result in disfigurement. Dr. Laskin’s biggest concern, however, is that Botox only treats the symptoms, and not the cause; an approach that he described as illogical.
Dr. Samolitis pointed out other reasons Botox may not be the best option if you’re looking for relief from TMJ pain. It won’t make any difference to jaws or joints that click, move, crack, or pop, which means you will need to find alternative treatments.
Alternatives To Botox
Botox is not a lasting solution for treating TMD. So, rather than growing increasingly frustrated with its use over time, it may be better to seek other treatments.
Some of the most common methods include medication, wearing a night guard to reduce the effect of teeth grinding, dietary changes, physical therapy, exercise, and hot and cold applications. Treatments that realigned the jaw have also proven to have had an effect, and for many a combination of options results in ongoing relief.