Botox for TMJ

Botox for TMJ: A Comprehensive Guide

Botox for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
Last updated on
February 4, 2024
Botox for TMJ

Find out how Botox may be able to treat your TMJ

Are you one of the many people battling the discomfort and pain of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)? If so, you are probably familiar with the headaches, jaw pain, and difficulty eating that this condition can cause. Standard treatments like pain medication and physical therapy can offer some relief, but they are not always enough. Fortunately, there is an innovative solution that might help, Botox or Anti-Wrinkle Injections.

More typically associated with smoothing wrinkles and rejuvenating the skin, Botox has emerged as a potentially transformative treatment for TMJ. 

What is TMJ Disorder?

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, often simply referred to as TMJ, is a condition affecting the temporomandibular joints, which connect your jawbone to your skull. These joints, positioned on either side of your head, are responsible for the jaw movement that allows us to talk, chew, and yawn. But when these joints are impaired, the result can be the widespread pain of TMJ disorder.

Common symptoms of TMJ disorder encompass a range of discomforts that can significantly impact daily life. These include persistent jaw pain, difficulty in opening and closing the mouth, headaches, earaches, facial pain, and even a clicking sound or grating sensation when you open your mouth or chew. In some cases, the disorder can even lead to the jaw being temporarily stuck open or closed, a position known as lockjaw.

The causes of TMJ disorder vary, making it a somewhat complex condition to treat. Factors such as jaw injury, arthritis, genetics, and even habits like teeth grinding can contribute to the development of this disorder. Stress, too, is a common culprit, as it often leads to jaw clenching, which puts additional strain on these joints.

Traditional Treatments for TMJ

Treating TMJ disorder can often feel like a journey of trial and error, as the effectiveness of treatments can greatly vary from person to person. Traditional treatments typically aim to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and restore normal jaw function.

One of the first lines of treatment for TMJ often involves over-the-counter or prescribed pain relievers and anti-inflammatories. For some people, these medications can offer a degree of relief from the discomfort associated with TMJ disorder. However, it is worth noting that while they can alleviate symptoms, they do not address the underlying cause of the condition.

Physical therapy is another common treatment option. A therapist might teach exercises to strengthen jaw muscles, improve flexibility, and promote better jaw alignment. Relaxation techniques can also be included to help manage stress and reduce jaw clenching.

Some individuals might benefit from the use of oral splints or mouth guards. These devices, fitted by a dentist, can help alleviate discomfort by reducing the effects of clenching or grinding the teeth - common habits among those with TMJ disorder.

Dental work can sometimes be recommended as well. If misaligned teeth are contributing to TMJ disorder, treatments like orthodontics, crowns, or bridges can help correct the issue.

While these traditional treatments can offer some relief, they might not work for everyone. Some individuals continue to experience persistent symptoms despite these interventions. Furthermore, treatments like dental work can be invasive and expensive, which might not be ideal for everyone.

Botox: A Possible Solution for TMJ

When you think of Botox, your mind probably goes straight to its anti-aging properties. After all, it is well-known for its ability to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. However, this versatile substance has far more uses than just cosmetic enhancements. From treating migraines to excessive sweating, Botox has a multitude of medical applications. Among these is a potential treatment for TMJ disorder.

Botox, also known as Botulinum Toxin Type A, is a neurotoxic protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. In cosmetic and medical treatments, it is used in extremely small, safe doses. Botox works by blocking nerve signals in the muscles where it is injected. When those nerve signals are interrupted, the targeted muscle can not contract. This leads to a temporary relaxation of the muscle.

When applied to TMJ disorder, Botox is injected into the muscles responsible for jaw movement - the masseter and temporalis muscles. By relaxing these muscles, Botox can alleviate jaw tension, headaches, and other painful symptoms associated with TMJ disorder.

One of the attractive aspects of Botox treatment for TMJ is that it is minimally invasive and has a relatively quick procedure time, often done within a lunch break. Plus, it is an outpatient treatment, meaning you can go home right after the procedure.

The Science Behind Botox for TMJ

Botox works by blocking nerve signals in the muscles where it is injected, causing a temporary relaxation of these muscles. But how exactly does this help with TMJ disorder?

The masseter and temporalis muscles, located in the jaw, are often overactive in individuals with TMJ disorder. This overactivity can result in muscle enlargement and excessive tension, leading to the symptoms of pain, discomfort, and sometimes even changes in facial appearance. By injecting Botox into these muscles, we can decrease their activity, thus reducing the associated symptoms.

Botox has shown potential for treating TMJ disorders in some individuals, although it is important to note that this application is still in the experimental stages. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has yet to approve the use of Botox for TMJ.

A study from 2012 indicated that Botox could substantially alleviate pain and enhance mouth mobility for a 3-month period post-treatment. However, this was a small-scale study involving only 26 individuals.

Two additional studies, one published in 2003 and the other in 2008, reported similar outcomes. In the 2003 study, as many as 90% of participants who had not responded to conventional treatments experienced symptom improvement. 

Despite these promising results, scientists advocate for further studies to fully comprehend the extent of Botox's effectiveness in treating TMJ.

What to Expect during your Botox for TMJ Procedure 

If you have been considering Botox for TMJ, you might be curious about what the procedure entails. Here is a step-by-step walkthrough to help you understand what to expect.


Your journey begins with a consultation with a healthcare provider experienced in Botox treatments. They will evaluate your medical history, symptoms, and overall health to determine if Botox for TMJ is right for you. This is your opportunity to ask any questions and address any concerns you may have.


On the day of the procedure, your provider may apply a topical anesthetic to numb the injection area and reduce any discomfort. You'll be awake throughout the process, which typically takes less than 30 minutes.


The provider will use a fine needle to inject Botox into the masseter and/or temporalis muscles. The number of injections will depend on your specific needs and the severity of your TMJ symptoms.


After the procedure, you can return to your normal activities. However, your provider may advise you to avoid strenuous activities, alcohol, and touching or massaging the injection site for a certain period.

It is important to know that the effects of Botox are not immediate. You may start to feel relief from your TMJ symptoms within a week, but it could take up to two weeks for the full effects to be felt.

Like any medical procedure, Botox for TMJ does come with potential side effects and risks. These can include mild bruising, swelling, or redness at the injection site, as well as potential headaches or flu-like symptoms. More serious but rare side effects can include difficulty swallowing, speaking, or breathing. Always discuss these potential risks with your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions about Botox for TMJ

Is Botox for TMJ safe?

Yes, when performed by a qualified healthcare provider, Botox for TMJ is generally considered safe. However, like any medical procedure, it does come with potential risks and side effects. These can range from mild reactions at the injection site to more rare but serious side effects. Always discuss potential risks with your provider.

How long does Botox for TMJ last?

The effects of Botox for TMJ typically last between 3 to 4 months, although this can vary from person to person. As the effects begin to wear off, TMJ symptoms may start to return, and a repeat treatment may be necessary.

Will Botox for TMJ change the appearance of my face?

Some people may notice slight changes in the appearance of their jawline if the masseter muscle was significantly enlarged due to overactivity. As Botox relaxes this muscle, it may become smaller, potentially leading to a more streamlined jawline.

Does the procedure hurt?

Botox injections for TMJ are usually described as feeling like a quick pinch or prick. If you are concerned about discomfort, your provider can use a topical anesthetic to numb the area before the injections.

Is Botox for TMJ covered by Medicare or Private Health Insurance?

Unfortunately, Medicare does not provide coverage for treatments related to TMJ. However, if you have private health cover, you may be able to use dental and chiropractic item numbers for claims. Keep in mind that each health insurance plan offers different levels of coverage, so it is important to consult your health fund beforehand.

Conclusion: Botox for TMJ

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMJ, can be a significant source of discomfort and pain, affecting all aspects of daily life. While traditional treatments can offer some relief, they are not always sufficient or suitable for everyone. That is where Botox comes in, a treatment that may help those struggling with this disorder.

Remember, every individual is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Therefore, it is always essential to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before deciding on any treatment plan. 

Sources & Studies

Ataran, R, Bahramian, A, Jamali, Z, Pishahang, V, Sadeghi Barzegani, H, Sarbakhsh, P & Yazdani, J 2017, ‘The Role of Botulinum Toxin A in Treatment of Temporomandibular Joint Disorders: A Review’, Journal of dentistry (Shiraz, Iran), vol. 18, Journal of Dentistry Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, no. 3, pp. 157–164, viewed 15 May 2023, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5634354/>.

Denglehem, C, Maes, J-M ., Raoul, G & Ferri, J 2012, ‘Botulinum toxin A: Analgesic treatment for temporomandibular joint disorders’, Revue de Stomatologie et de Chirurgie Maxillo-faciale, vol. 113, no. 1, pp. 27–31, viewed 18 May 2023, <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0035176811002117?via%3Dihub>.

Freund, B, Schwartz, M & Symington, JM 1999, ‘The use of botulinum toxin for the treatment of temporomandibular disorders: Preliminary findings’, Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, vol. 57, no. 8, pp. 916–920, viewed 15 May 2023, <https://www.joms.org/article/S0278-2391(99)90007-1/pdf>.

Guarda-Nardini, L, Manfredini, D, Salamone, M, Salmaso, L, Tonello, S & Ferronato, G 2008, ‘Efficacy of Botulinum Toxin in Treating Myofascial Pain in Bruxers: A Controlled Placebo Pilot Study’, CRANIO®, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 126–135, viewed 18 May 2023, <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/crn.2008.017>.

Sunil Dutt, C, Ramnani, P, Thakur, D & Pandit, M 2014, ‘Botulinum Toxin in the Treatment of Muscle Specific Oro-Facial Pain: A Literature Review’, Journal of Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 171–175, viewed 15 May 2023, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444670/>.

Thambar, S, Kulkarni, S, Armstrong, S & Nikolarakos, D 2020, ‘Botulinum toxin in the management of temporomandibular disorders: a systematic review’, British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, vol. 58, no. 5, pp. 508–519, viewed 15 May 2023, <https://www.bjoms.com/article/S0266-4356(20)30062-0/fulltext>.

von Lindern, JJ, Niederhagen, B, Bergé, S & Appel, T 2003, ‘Type A botulinum toxin in the treatment of chronic facial pain associated with masticatory hyperactivity’, Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, vol. 61, no. 7, pp. 774–778, viewed 18 May 2023, <https://www.joms.org/article/S0278-2391(03)00153-8/fulltext>.

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