Botox is almost synonymous with smoothing unsightly forehead wrinkles, but this well-known beauty treatment has other uses that could help you live your best life, too. Instead of using the injections to merely fight signs of aging, more and more people are opting to go under the needle in the name of fighting pain at the unlikeliest of places: their dentist’s office. Botox is used as a treatment for the pain and discomfort associated with temporomandibular joint disorders (also referred to as TMJ or “lockjaw”).
What Is TMJ?
When you chew, open your mouth to talk, yawn or smile, your temporomandibular joint is hard at work. This joint connects your jaw to your skull just forward from the base of your ears. When the cartilage, tendons, ligaments or muscles that surround and make up this joint are injured, misaligned, malformed or damaged, it causes TMJ dysfunction. Sometimes TMJ occurs through everyday use of our mouths — chewing, for example, can trigger the condition in some, while other times it’s a misuse of our teeth from clenching or grinding that brings on the pain and discomfort of the condition. You may be one of the people who experience TMJ dysfunction from a combination of factors, genetics or even arthritis.
Those with TMJ pain feel soreness or tightness in their jaw or at the location of the joints themselves. Sometimes the discomfort feels like a dull ache or a pulled muscle. Other times it’s sharp and stabbing. Locking of the jaw, or a freezing up of the joints, is also possible, making it impossible to open your mouth beyond a certain point.
How Does Botox Help?
Botox is an injection of botulinum toxin — a powerful neurotoxin produced as a by-product of Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The same organism is responsible for the foodborne illness known as botulism, but when cultivated in a medical laboratory and used as an injection by a licensed care provider, the toxin blocks signals from nerves to the surrounding muscles.
When the nerve signals are blocked, the muscles the toxin was injected into can’t be consciously moved by the person receiving the injections, but they also can’t cause pain. Because of the mild paralysis, the locking phenomenon of TMJ may disappear — the muscles injected with the toxin can finally relax.
Is Botox an Approved Treatment for TMJ?
Botox is not currently recognized by the FDA as an approved treatment for TMJ dysfunction. It’s considered an experimental or off-label use of the injections. A number of small studies on the use of injections for the disorder are promising, but the treatment is not without side effects.
As with any procedure that opens the skin, there’s a slight chance of infection. If the injections are misdelivered, they may migrate and paralyze surrounding muscles. Those getting injections for TMJ may have a temporary smile on their face as a result of muscle paralysis. Redness and bruising at the place of injection are also possible.
Treatment for TMJ traditionally consists of pain relief and exercises to relax and strengthen the muscles around the jaw joint. Massage, relaxation techniques, medications such as pain relievers and anti-inflammatories and, in some cases, surgery to correct the damage done to the joint are also used in the management of TMJ.
Some cases of TMJ are self-resolving and respond well to home care efforts to reduce pain and relax the muscles of your face and neck. Others need to see a doctor or dentist. If your TMJ is due to an alignment issue or grinding and clenching, your provider may recommend a mouthguard or treatment to correct the alignment of your teeth and mouth. If arthritis is the culprit behind your TMJ pain, you may need the care of a surgeon to correct the underlying disease process and reduce the occurrence of future episodes.
How We Can Help
The office of Drs. Krieger and Hur does not currently offer Botox as a treatment for TMJ, but we may in the future. We are, however, experts in the field of dentistry and it’s a good first stop for getting some relief from your TMJ pain, tightness or locking. Whether you’re in need of treatment to align your teeth and fix spacing or crowding issues, or need a custom-fitted mouthguard to stop grinding your teeth at night, we can help.
Our office prides itself on being a pain-free zone, and that extends to our booking process. We’ve made it easy and effortless to secure your spot. You can give us a call at (201) 560-0606 or shoot us an email by clicking here. Our goal is to see you smile, and we’d love to help you resolve a TMJ flare-up so you can.