As a dental professional, you’re no doubt well aware of the negatives of temporomandibular joint syndrome or TMJ.
The temporomandibular joint connects the mandible (or lower jaw) to the temporal bone (or skull) in front of the ear. Other specific facial muscles that connect to the lower jaw are responsible for chewing.
When the pain of TMJ has been too much for over-the-counter pain meds, it’s been known for dentists to prescribe strong pain relievers such as prescription-strength ibuprofen. Patients have also been treated with low doses of tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline to relieve pain symptoms, but also to control bruxism and sleeplessness.
Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for patients to be offered muscle relaxants for their TMJ-related issues.
Then there is an array of therapies, like oral splints and even physical therapy used to treat the condition. If the patient is suffering enough, there’s also a mandibular or multi-joint surgery that can be performed. Really though, this list of treatments is only scratching the surface.
In fact, recently, Botox injections have been utilized to treat TMJ syndrome ‒ with a great deal of success.
How Useful Are TMJ Treatments?
A small anecdotal study involving 26 patients from 2012 discovered that Botox could substantially decrease the pain associated with TMJ for up to three months. It also could increase mouth movements.
There were two other studies, published respectively in 2003 and 2008, that revealed similar results.
Of the participants in the 2003 study, 90% displayed symptom relief after failing to respond to more conventional treatment methods.
As is the case with most experimental treatments, these small sample sizes aren’t enough for most experts to offer their 100% stamp of approval. Yes, the results are undoubtedly encouraging.
Still, to endorse the full effectiveness of Botox treatments for TMJ disorders, experts need to investigate the results of further studies.
Are There Any Side Effects to Botox Treatments for TMJ?
Despite the potential for positive results, Botox treatments for TMJ do come with side effects.
Pain, redness at the injection site, muscle weakness, and bruising at the injection site is common in the first week after treatment. More serious side effects include headache, respiratory infection, flu-like illness, nausea, and temporary eyelid droop.
Then there’s a chance that your patients might experience a fixed smile for up to 6 to 8 weeks. This condition is a result of the paralyzing effect that’s brought upon by Botox treatments.
A Breakdown of the Procedure
One of the primary benefits of Botox treatments for TMJ disorder is that it’s a nonsurgical, outpatient procedure. Meaning, it’s non-invasive. It’s performed right in the dental office and only lasts from anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes.
Commonly, there are at least 3 injection sessions that span throughout a several-month period. The number of injections required depends on your patient’s needs and the severity of their condition.
Botox can be injected in a patient’s forehead, temple, jaw muscles, or anywhere else in the face/head area where there are pain symptoms. Resulting pain from the injection itself is minimal. It resembles a bug bite, and a cold pack or numbing cream can help to ease any discomfort.
Patients will generally experience improvements several days after the treatment. Though they can return to regular activities immediately after leaving your office.
When Should Botox Be Used to Treat TMJ?
While this treatment is more synonymous with cosmetic enhancement, it’s increasingly being used in the dental industry therapeutically.
Botox injections treat the symptoms of TMJ instead of the syndrome itself. Meaning, it’s meant to soothe the jaw tension, teeth grinding-induced headaches and lockjaw that can result from TMJ syndrome.
Still, at this point, Botox treatments for TMJ disorder are only experimental. It’s considered to be an off-label approach that has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As such, these injections are currently only an alternative when more traditionally successful methods haven’t been able to give patients relief.