Botox for TMJ Disorders? It May Provide Relief

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Botox has been approved for medical and cosmetic use for many years. Recently, using botox for TMJ disorders has become an interesting option. This alternative treatment has shown promise to bridge the gap between conservative and invasive treatments. Although, the evidence behind the treatment shows it can be effective, currently the science supporting it is very limited. Understanding this alternative treatment may help you and your dentist decide if this therapy is right for your TMJ dysfunction.

Is Botox Safe?

Botox is a drug made from a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. It's the same toxin that causes the food poisoning known as botulism, says the Observer, but doctors have discovered how to manipulate its components to provide relief for a number of functional and aesthetic purposes.

In 1989, it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat eye muscle conditions and in 2002 for cosmetic use in treating facial wrinkles. Since then, botox has been approved as a treatment for overactive bladder, chronic migraines, muscle stiffness, and eyelid spasms, among others, according to the FDA. Since the compound relaxes muscle spasms and may relieve pain, it sparked an interest for use in TMJ disorders; however, botox is not approved specifically for TMJ treatment and is considered an off-label use.

Treatment for Jaw Pain and TMJ

The temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is used every day for talking, eating and other functions. This joint can be over-worked or over-loaded, especially if you grind or clench your teeth. This can lead to pain and discomfort and like any other joint, the TMJ can develop arthritis. The pain and discomfort affects the muscles that support the joint and that's where the botox comes into play. By relieving the muscular pain, it may improve the function of this very active joint. According to the American Academy of Facial Esthetics, botox treatment is considered an alternative therapy after more conservative options have not resulted in improvement of symptoms. Although experimental, it may eliminate the need for more invasive treatments like surgery.

After treatment, the side effects are minimal and other temporary conditions from the injection, namely numbness, redness or bruising, subside within a few days to a week. Also, limited opening of the mouth may occur. Simply massaging the area may relieve discomfort. Good oral hygiene is imperative and should your normal brushing routine prove difficult, swish gently with a mouthwash like Colgate Total Advanced Health. It kills 99 percent of germs on contact.


Although dental specialists offer botox for TMJ disorders, it is important to consider the alternatives, side effects, contraindications, risks and efficacy. As mentioned previously, the use of botox for this indication is off-label. Also, look into how accepted this treatment is in your dental community and if it meets the latest standard of care. Until more is known, botox for TMJ is considered experimental and should be treated as such, notes the National Institutes of Health.

Botox for TMJ disorders may be the solution for some patients, especially for those who have had no relief from other non-invasive remedies. Knowing the basics about botox and its potential may help you decide if this is an option for you. Consulting your dental health professional is paramount for attaining and maintaining a pain-free smile!