For many people seeking relief from the constant jaw pain, headaches, and other symptoms of TMJ, botox injections can seem a godsend. By partially paralyzing the muscles of mastication, botox injections can reduce the impact of TMJ.
But the question is, does this treatment of symptoms come at a high cost of serious side effects? And what are the long-term effects of constant exposure to this treatment?
How Botox Treats TMJ
Botox, short for botulinum toxin, causes a flaccid paralysis in the treated muscles. This basically means it causes the muscles to relax.
For some people, overactive muscles of mastication may contribute to problems in the temporomandibular joint. It can cause disc displacement, which may lead to clicking, popping, and irregular motion of the jaw. By calming these muscles, botox injections can help the disc stay in place. When the disc stays in place, the jaw follows its proper movement path and is less likely to pinch nerves, which can cause pain, tingling, or numbness.
For other people, jaw pain comes directly from the overactive muscles themselves. Relaxing them with botox injections can reduce pain in these muscles. It can also reduce other symptoms, such as headaches, because the muscles from the jaw are no longer putting as much strain on muscles they partner with, or putting as much force on teeth and bones.
Long-Term Effects of Botox Treatment of the TMJ
Despite the positive results that have been reported in association with the use of botox for TMJ, there are some potential concerns that have come up. We can’t help but wonder what effects paralyzing your muscles will have on the jaw joint.
There are some studies that indicate these might be significant. A preliminary study focused on the injection of botox into the mastication muscles of rabbits found that the jaw muscles got smaller and that the bones of the jaw and skull lost density because of the lower levels of stimulation. This paper is a conference presentation and hasn’t gone through peer review. With the date of presentation some three years ago, it’s possible it will never be published (though not necessarily because its findings weren’t valid), or maybe additional data is still being collected. A more recent study confirmed that reduced load could lead to lower bone density in humans.
But it’s likely that this is a significant consideration. According to a study published in 2004, people who have their temporalis muscles injected regularly for migraine treatment may develop a deformity because their muscles got smaller. This occurred in 26 out of 92 patients, though researchers noted that the range of deformity varied from minor to severe, with patients who had more fatty tissue to cover the muscle experiencing less deformity.
With these outstanding questions surrounding the use of botox for TMJ, it’s hard to recommend the treatment for long-term use. It’s also worth noting that perhaps we should ask the question about whether the jaw muscle is the primary cause of TMJ in these cases or if the muscle problems are the result of other causes.
If you want an analysis of your TMJ that is directed at identifying the true cause of your condition, please call 803-781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.