Medical applications of Botox in TMJ
The temporomandibular joint connecting the jaw bone to the cheek bone can become inflamed or painful when this complex joint which ‘hinges’ your upper and lower jaw isn’t working at its best. This is one of the most complex joints in the body, responsible for moving the lower jaw forward, backward and side-to-side. Any problem which prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working properly is called TMJ.
Causes of TMJ
Causes of TMJ include injury to the teeth or jaw, misalignment of the teeth or jaw, teeth grinding, poor posture, stress, arthritis, and excessive gum chewing. It may feel like your jaw is popping, clicking or “getting stuck” for a moment.
The exact cause of this misalignment is often very difficult to exactly determine and there are many signs and symptoms, including: Headaches (often mimicking migraines), earaches, and pain and pressure behind the eyes
- Pain brought on by chewing, yawning, or widely opening the mouth
- Jaw muscle tenderness
- A clicking or popping sound when you open or close your mouth
- Jaw “gets stuck” or locks
- A noticeable change in how your upper and lower teeth fit together
Because a lot of these symptoms are shared by other health issues, it can be hard to know for sure if you have TMJ so it’s best to get a proper diagnosis from your dentist, who will review your medical and dental history, do a clinical examination and may also take X-rays.
Botox treatment for TMJ
Botulinum toxin, more commonly known as Botox, is a purified protein, like an antibiotic, derived from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum although there is no bacteria, alive or dead, in this mediation.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) of Australia approves and specifies the treatment of TMJ as an ‘off-label’ use (not a cosmetic use such as smoothing out wrinkles on the face) of Botulinum toxin- BTx-A. The three brands available in Australia are Dysport, Xeomin and Botox.
Dentists such as Martina Lavery, who use these muscle relaxants in their practice, must comply with all relevant laws governed by the TGA.
TMJ patients who are suffering significant pain or inconvenience with TMJ may consider Botox injections by dentists such as Martina Lavery, directly into the muscles of the jaw. Botox causes the muscle to relax and atrophy.
The muscles we engage for chewing, clenching and teeth grinding, the masseter and temporalis muscles, are affected by Botox, enabling them to relax and, in most cases, allowing for pain to recede.
Botox treatment for TMJ often improves the aesthetic of the face by softening the contour of the jawline which have been built up by excessive use. Teeth grinding, chewing and teeth clenching, especially when dysfunction, as with TMJ, causes a build up of muscle mass in the outline of the jaw and side of the forehead, in the temple region.
Your dentist should be qualified in therapeutic application of Botox by institutes such as the Australasian Academy of Dento-Facial Aesthetics and Training where dentist Martina Lavery trained. As Botox causes a temporary paralysis of those muscles which changes the forces causing normal stress on the TM joint, overuse may interfere with the natural process of breakdown and regrowth of bone.
How is TMJ otherwise treated?
There’s no single treatment but a variety of things that can reduce TMJ symptoms, including:
- Applying heat or taking muscle relaxant medications such as aspirin or anti-inflammatories.
- Wearing a custom-made oral appliance, sometimes called a bite plate or splint, to reduce the harmful effects of clenching and grinding.
- Relaxation techniques to reduce muscle tension in the jaw.
- In severe cases, jaw joint surgery may be recommended.