Botox Uppercuts TMJ Pain

jaw_painIt’s no secret or surprise (or shame, as I’ve stressed several times) that most people use Botox for cosmetic purposes, whether it is to smooth out facial wrinkles or to offset nature’s gravitational pull on places like the corners of your mouth.  I also noted in a previous blog post about how Botox treats excessive sweating.

The example of Botox’s utility against sweating alone is enough to prove that Botox can be used for more than just a touch-up.  As it turns out, recent studies have shown Botox to be an effective antidote against a certain internal pain as well, which just so happens to be in the facial region.

Temporomandibular joint dysfunction syndrome, typically known TMJ syndrome, causes a chronic facial pain that can be very severe and disabling.  The pain is usually dull and constant, but also results in tenderness to touch along the jaw line.

The first treatments for TMJ syndrome are often seen as conservative measures, including soft diet (i.e. avoiding eating food that are exceptionally chewy or crunchy), jaw splints, physical therapy, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These methods are intended to soothe inflammation within the joint, and relax the muscle tension in the muscles attached to the jaw and the TMJ itself.

TMJ_SkeletonOral drugs are sometimes used, such as muscle relaxants and antidepressants. However, they have multiple side effects including fatigue, and many patients are reluctant to use them as a result.

Studies in the maxillofacial surgery area have assessed the use of Botox as an alternative to oral drugs and the aforementioned conservative treatments. There is no single, agreed-upon guideline for Botox use in this area.

The amounts of Botox used can vary depending on the muscles involved and the degree of pain caused by the TMJ itself.  The masseter is the most common muscle into which Botox is injected, and it is also the largest muscle affected.

In a 2013 study of the use of Botox in TMJ pain, 79% of patients reported a reduction of pain by more than 25%. Patients were also found to have improved mouth opening and less stiffness in the jaw movement.

botox-injections-jawThe conclusion of this study was that pain reduction occurred because of reduced muscle tone and muscle relaxation. As you can probably guess, both of these symptoms came as a direct result of the Botox effect.

Several patients I have treated over the past several years have had significant and lengthy relief of their TMJ pain with Botox injections into the affected muscle along the jaw line.  I have even had a number of dentists send people to my office to give Botox a try with overall very good results.

However, the biggest problem from a financial perspective is that insurance companies do not currently consider Botox treatments of TMJ syndrome to be a “covered service”.  For now, many of these companies designate TMJ syndrome solely as a dental condition, rather than a medical problem.

Still, the Botox treatment really works on the TMJ, and I have the paperwork and the first hand accounts to prove it.  If you have any questions about whether Botox could help you or a friend or loved one who is afflicted with this stubborn and painful condition, don’t hesitate to call us at (207) 873-2158 to schedule your next free and confidential consultation.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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