How Botox Helps with TMJ

Sep 01, 2023
How Botox Helps with TMJ
Do you suffer from moderate to severe temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain? If so, Botox® injection therapy may be the best first step in a comprehensive treatment plan. Find out why — and learn how it works to provide effective relief. 

Place your fingertips in front of your ears on either side of your face, then open and close your mouth. You’re feeling your temporomandibular joints (TMJs) — or the sliding hinge joints that join your jawbone with your skull — in action.  

Like other body joints, your TMJs are vulnerable to age-related degenerative changes and traumatic injuries. TMJ pain and dysfunction is a common problem affecting up to 12 million people in the United States at any given time. 

If you’ve been living with the relentless pain of a TMJ disorder, our expert team at Vida Dental Spa in Whitestone, New York, can help. Here, TMJ treatment specialist Dr. Maria-Teresa Ioannou discusses the ins and outs of TMJ dysfunction and explains how Botox® injection therapy provides near-immediate pain relief that lasts. 

A short tutorial on TMJ dysfunction 

You don’t give much thought to your jaw joints when they’re healthy — they function exactly as expected, enabling you to speak, yawn, and chew normally. But when one (or both) of your TMJs develop a problem, the resulting inflammation, stiffness, and discomfort can make it hard to move your jaw without wincing in pain. 

For many people, one of the first signs of a developing TMJ disorder is the appearance of a painless, popping, or clicking sensation in the jaw joint. Without intervention, this inexplicable problem tends to worsen. Eventually, it may give rise to ongoing jaw tenderness or facial pain along with periodic bolts of sharp, acute pain in the affected joint. 

Common signs of TMJ disorder advancement include:   

  • Unrelenting jaw, face, or neck pain
  • Pain or difficulty when eating food 
  • Extremely tight or stiff jaw muscles
  • Tenderness near one or both ears
  • Increased tooth pain or sensitivity

Ongoing TMJ pain and stiffness isn’t just bothersome, it’s also concerning — the longer it goes untreated, the more likely it is to progress even further, causing limited jaw movement, chronic headaches, or even a permanent bite misalignment. 

How Botox works to alleviate TMJ pain 

TMJ dysfunction and pain is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive, multifaceted treatment approach. Your plan may include:

  • Temporarily switching to a soft food diet to rest your jaw joints
  • Applying cold therapy to reduce pain-causing inflammation
  • Wearing an oral device at night to prevent teeth grinding (asleep bruxism)
  • Physical therapy exercises to gently stretch and strengthen your jaw joints 

However, it can be extremely helpful to begin TMJ treatment with Botox therapy for moderate to severe TMJ stiffness and pain. Why? In the same way Botox Cosmetic relaxes facial muscle contractions, which produce fine lines and wrinkles, Botox is also highly effective at relaxing overly tight jaw joint muscles and easing TMJ pain.    

A potent therapeutic agent 

Botulinum toxin, also known as Botox, is a highly purified protein obtained from the natural bacterium Clostridium botulinum. In small doses, this potent neurotoxin becomes a therapeutic agent that can effectively suspend pain signals. 

Disrupting the pain pathway

Botox therapy for TMJ pain works like this: When injected into specific, targeted points around a problematic jaw joint, Botox interrupts the pathway of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that relays pain signals from your muscles to your brain, nerves, and spinal cord. 

Relaxing tense jaw muscles

As Botox blocks the expression of the sensory pathways involved in sustaining tension-driven jaw pain, the targeted muscles relax and loosen. As your tight jaw joint muscles slowly lose constriction, the unrelenting tension gradually disappears, and you regain a pain-free jaw with a more normal range of motion.  

Quick pain relief that lasts 

A few tiny Botox injections can provide prompt TMJ pain relief: Your jaw joints should feel noticeably better within 24 hours of treatment. Even better, you can expect relief to last for three or four months — plenty of time to progress with other treatment modalities, like physical therapy.

Comprehensive care for TMJ disorders

You don’t have to live with chronic TMJ pain — we can help. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Ioannou at Vida Dental Spa today by calling the office or using the online booking feature.