You are likely familiar with the concept of therapeutic Botox®, which uses a neurotoxin protein to selectively and temporarily paralyze certain skeletal muscles. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initially approved Botox® therapy to help people with eye coordination difficulties, eye muscle spasms, and neck spasms, and then it was expanded to be used for cosmetic wrinkle reduction. More recently, Botox® has been used for other medical conditions, too, such as migraine headaches and excessive sweating.
Botox® is injected with small needles into specific muscle groups to help temporarily stop these muscles from contracting. In pain syndromes that are triggered by muscle tension, this intervention can be helpful in providing relief. Unlike pharmaceutical medications, Botox® gets to work precisely where it is injected, which limits its risk of causing systemic side effects. It is simple, it is fast, and it can be quite effective.
In the case of TMD, clinicians target the muscles that are involved in mastication (chewing), particularly the muscles known as the lateral pterygoids. Because it is so important to reach the specific muscles in question, clinicians will sometimes use a technology known as electromyography (EMG) to make sure that they are pinpointing the right target and to reduce the chance of any side effects.
Although the FDA has not officially approved Botox® therapy for the specific treatment of TMD, many other similar conditions have benefitted from this type of intervention. There are currently ongoing clinical trials specifically looking at the use of Botox® for TMD, but many medical clinicians are already successfully using Botox® for TMD because they know how to use it safely to help patients. Some researchers have even found that, after beginning treatment with Botox® for TMD, more than 90 percent of patients reported that their chronic facial pain improved.
The adverse effects of Botox® for TMD are similar to the effects seen in using Botox® for other purposes. After injections, your jaw muscles might feel a bit weaker, and some people experience a bit of difficulty with speech or eating. However, these effects are transient. Other effects include minor bruising or tenderness at the injection site.
Historically, there were also concerns about how Botox® injections might negatively affect the density of the jaw bone; however, the most recent research has not upheld this theory.
If you are experiencing TMJ or facial pain, we are here to support you. To learn more about our innovative approach to TMD management, schedule a consultation today.