The Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) holds the jaw bone to the skull and when muscular spasms cause the joint to become inflamed, the effect is extremely painful. These disorders are often misunderstood and the problem can be either chronic or acute. Patients may be able to find relief from an unusual source - Botox.
The botulinum toxin, from which Botox is made, is a paralytic that blocks nerve signals and effectively freezes the muscles so that they no longer are active and therefore can't move - or spasm. When Botox is used cosmetically, the treated facial muscles are no longer able to tighten and cause wrinkles. In TMJ treatment however, Botox doesn't fully freeze the muscle, rather it only weakens it. The patient is still able to speak and chew their food, but the muscle isn't constantly flexed as it was prior to treatment.
Dr. Alexander Rivkin, a cosmetic surgeon who offers Botox in Los Angeles was recently featured on The Doctors treating a patient who suffers from TMJ because she grinds her teeth at night. After trying several traditional treatments for TMJ such as having her wisdom teeth removed, bite guards and even chiropractics with no success, she decided to try Botox. This is her second treatment with Dr. Rivkin and she raves about the results. There is even a cosmetic difference due to the relaxing of the jaw muscle. When the muscle is flexed, it creates a more "masculine" appearance. When it relaxes, the face takes on the more natural and feminine oval shape.
Just like Botox for cosmetic use, the treatment wears off after about 3 months. For some patients, one treatment may suffice as it breaks the cycle of teeth grinding and therefore stops the root cause of the TMJ. It should be noted that this is not an FDA approved use for Botox and you should seek out a physician familiar with using Botox for this purpose.