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Botox® For TMJ Pain Relief

If you have pain in your face and jaw, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is a procedure like Botox. What you probably don’t know is that an injection that’s typically associated with eliminating crow’s feet and laugh lines may actually provide the pain relief you need right now. 

History of Botox®

Botox has a long history of medical and therapeutic (aka non-cosmetic) uses. The procedure was originally developed to treat eye muscle disorders and neurological conditions. After patients received injections to reduce uncontrollable blinking, they noticed an unusual side effect: their frown lines faded. Clinical trials that followed validated these reports and within a few years, Botox was a legit anti-wrinkle elixir.

So Botox wasn’t always a procedure that patients sought out a cosmetologist for. In fact, in its earliest days, medical doctors and doctors of surgery — specifically health care professionals who are intimately familiar with the anatomy of the face, head, and neck — were providing these treatments.

What is Botox®

Botox is a safe, FDA-approved neurotoxin called botulinum toxin. It’s popularly known for its ability to improve the appearance of skin by temporarily blocking nerve cells from sending signals back and forth and for reducing muscle contractions. These are the mechanisms at work when you get Botox to smooth wrinkles around your mouth, eyes and forehead. But Botox injections are extremely successful in treating medical conditions, too, such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain disorders.

What is TMJ Pain

Temporomandibular joints are located on both sides of the face near each ear. It’s where the jawbone connects to the skull. These joints are very active when you talk, eat and swallow. When the TMJ becomes displaced or overworked, usually caused by a lot of chewing or grinding your teeth, you might feel a sharp pain in your jaw. You also may experience severe headaches. For most people, TMJ pain is temporary, but very uncomfortable. A majority of cases can be managed with Botox injections. 

Here are some signs and symptoms of a TMJ disorder:

  • Jaw pain, tenderness or aching
  • Pain, tenderness or aching in the joints near the ears
  • Pain while chewing (severe pain may even interfere with your ability to chew)
  • Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
  • Clicking sound from the jaw when you chew or open/close your mouth 

Botox® for TMJ Pain

Experts have known for decades that Botox can temporarily block nerve pain. And study after study have demonstrated that the injections are useful for much more than “skin deep” aesthetic procedures. For example, as far back as 2003 researchers determined that more than 90 percent of patients who received Botox for chronic face pain and headaches reported a significant reduction in pain symptoms.[1] About 10 years later, researchers found that patients who experienced chronic facial pain and treated with Botox injections reported “significant decrease of pain,” less muscle tenderness, and even improved psychological state.

How Does the Procedure Work?

A Botox injection is a minimally invasive, fast-acting treatment for TMJ pain. Multiple studies have shown that the injections are fast-acting, they relieve pain by blocking pain signals between the brain and the TMJ and alleviate muscle tension. Botox also reduces muscle contractions, cramping and spasms in the jaw.  There are multiple muscles in the head and neck that can contribute to TMJ pain, and the dentist is an expert in it.  In fact, a full TMJ exam is typically a 45 minute workup to examine in depth every muscle that contributes to it.  Ask us questions about it and we will be happy to answer you.  

Is Botox® for TMJ Pain Safe?

Botox treatments, especially in low doses, have been deemed safe and effective for use in reducing TMJ pain. And recent studies of Botox for TMJ pain have helped improve the accuracy of injections and also fine-tuned dose amounts.  Like with any medical procedure, even those that are minimally-invasive, there is the potential for side effects. With Botox, the most common are mild pain and/or swelling at the site of the injection. These are typically not long-lasting. 

Get more information about Botox® for TMJ Pain

To find out more about Botox for TMJ pain and whether you qualify for this treatment, contact Westlake Hills Dentistry. As a health care professional who has completed a comprehensive Botox treatment curriculum, Dr. Ho can discuss all of your medical Botox needs.

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  1. Denglehem C., Maes J-M., et. al. Rev Stomatol Chir Maxillofac. Feb 2012 113(1):27-31. doi: 10.1016/j.stomax.2011.12.003. 


  1. von Lindern, J., Niederhagen, B., et. al.; J Oral Maxillofac Surg, Jul 2003. 61(7):774-8. doi: 10.1016/s0278-2391(03)00153-8.
  2. Raphael K., Janal M., et. al. Journal of Oral Rehabilitation. “Effect of Multiple Injections of Botulinum Toxin into Painful Masticatory Muscles on Bone Density in the Temporomandibular Complex.” 2020; DOI: 10.1111/joor.13087
  3. ScienceDaily, “Botox for TMJ disorders may not lead to bone loss in the short term, but more research is needed.” Sep 2020. https://bit.ly/2Nymo6e