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Botox as a cure for TMJ

You know that gorgeous man you recently broke up with who was perfect in every way except his TOTAL unavailability? And it’s SUPER annoying and sad and makes you angry and heartbroken it didn’t work out…and you go through the what ifs and the whys before sleep and then wake up in the morning with your jaw clenched and aching?

No? Okay, maybe that’s just me.

But hey! There’s plenty of stress to go around. How about that financial stress of a fat mortgage or a loan payment? Or maybe that guilt that you’re not spending enough time with your kids and feeling like a “bad mom” because you didn’t cook amazing dinners last week or you haven’t driven the cheer carpool in awhile? Or maybe you’ve got all of that going on.

You get the picture. Life’s stresses. I’m clenching my teeth right now writing this. Seriously, I keep massaging the right side of my face.

Recently I was at my doctor’s office for an unrelated issue and she looked in my mouth and said, “You’re wearing a night guard right?”

No. No, I am not.

And she said, “You are way too young to have teeth like that. If you keep grinding your teeth like that you’re not gonna have anything left!” Awesome. I’m sure I did some damage on my teeth that night just worrying about that! I left thinking about how I didn’t wanna go get fitted for a night guard and have that football gear in my mouth while I sleep. But then a brilliant thought occurred. Somewhere in the back of my head was a memory, a stored tidbit of information: I think Botox can help to help alleviate that constant muscle tension!

It sure can. Botox injections can be placed into the jaw muscles to help relax those muscles and greatly lessen the extreme clenching and grinding motions that cause the symptoms of TMJ disorders.

All those clenching and grinding jaw motions are made possible by the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is located on both sides of the head where the skull attaches to the jawbone. It is just beside your ears and acts like a hinge when you open and close your mouth. This joint is constantly used for chewing and talking. People who have TMJ disorders usually have symptoms like a clicking or grinding noise in the joint. The main causes of TMJ disorders are jaw displacement and stress-related, involuntary jaw movements (like teeth grinding and jaw clenching). Constant overuse of this joint and the attached muscles can lead to headaches, earaches, radiating pain from the joint, sore muscles around the jaw, neck and shoulder pain, and in extreme cases, lockjaw. Constant grinding of the teeth can also lead to tooth decay and loosening of the teeth.

As I’m learning more about TMJ and the pain it can cause, I remember that about a year ago I had a pain in my right jaw muscle that got increasingly worse to the point where I thought surely an alien baby was going to pop out of the side of my face. I went to the doctor. They looked in my ears, my throat. Felt lymph glands. Took blood. Did a jaw x-ray. Nothing. Seriously the pain was ridiculous. It went away after a day or so. Now I’m realizing it was most likely TMJ related pain.

So what can Botox do? Botox for TMJ can alleviate the tension on the joint by relaxing the jaw muscles that surround it, thus preventing excessive jaw movement and related grinding. Regular functions of the jaw muscle are left intact – don’t worry you’re still going to be able to talk and chew your food - while the more extreme and unconscious use of the jaw muscle is discontinued.

Benefits of Botox for TMJ related problems:

  • elimination of headaches caused by nighttime grinding

  • reduced discomfort when using the jaw

  • reduced shoulder and neck pain

  • substantially reduced jaw tension

  • minimization of lockjaw

Only the areas injected with Botox will be relaxed. The injections are mainly in the temporalis (by the temple), frontalis (around the forehead), and masseter (the larger muscle at the base of your jaw). Most patients experience improvement within one or two days of their first treatment, although relief can take up to a week.

I plan to get a Botox treatment for my incessant jaw clenching and teeth grinding this week. I’ll post a video!

Written by: Beth Jarrett

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