Botox For TMJ: Can It Relieve Pain?

Botox For TMJ: Can It Relieve Pain?


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​​Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to TMJ treatment.

Botox, which is short for botulinum toxin, is typically used to reduce wrinkles and improve aesthetic appearance. However, more doctors and clinics have begun offering the procedure to treat temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders and relieve pain.

But is botox actually proven effective for TMJ in medical studies, or is it a waste of money? Do real users report pain relief when getting botox for TMJ? Does it cause side effects? And is it covered by health insurance?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we review medical research on botox for TMJ to determine its efficacy, share a real user review of the procedure, and explain whether it's typically covered by health insurance.

Does Botox for TMJ Work?

There’s a significant amount of medical research testing the effectiveness of botox for treating TMJ. A medical review published by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health analyzed data from four clinical studies on botox for TMJ.

The results were relatively negative. The study authors concluded that “None of the included systematic reviews expressed confidence in the efficacy of [botox] for treating [TMJ].” 

Some of the reviewed studies did have positive results, but the researchers noted that there were so many different techniques and treatment approaches used that it was hard say that the procedure is effective overall.

A different study on the topic found an interesting result. The researchers of this second study concluded that botox may be useful for patients who don’t respond to standard first-line TMJ treatments such as physical therapy and splint therapy. In patients who didn’t respond to standard TMJ treatments, subsequent botox treatments led to a statistically significant improvement in pain scores on average.

Another medical review published in the British Dentists Journal concluded that botox could be considered as a worthwhile last-resort treatment option for TMJ, but due to the cost and potential side effects, all safer options should be exhausted first.

Based on the available research, we will conclude that botox may be effective for treating TMJ, but shouldn’t be considered as a first option because it doesn't appear to be more effective than treatment methods like physical therapy, and may have a greater risk of side effects.

Real User Review of Botox for TMJ

One of the most popular YouTube reviews of botox for TMJ comes from a creator named "Sarah Oliveras." The video appears unsponsored and she shares her experience getting botox to treat TMJ, including pros, cons and before and after pictures:

What Are The Side Effects Of Botox For TMJ?

A medical review published in the Toxins journal detailed the risk of side effects of using botox to treat TMJ. The most common side effect appears to be difficulty chewing, but this should pass over time and is not reported as permanent.

A less common but more concerning side effect is negative effects to apperance due to muscle atrophy. If muscles atrophy at the site of the botox injection, that side of the face could potentially "droop" and reduce the symmetry of the face.

The study authors also reported that flu-like symptoms are experienced by a small subset of patients (the percentage was not reported), but that this effect is transient and "usually of brief duration."

According to the above-linked review, around 100 units of botox are typically used, which is well under the lethal dose of 3,000 units, so we don't consider there to be any risk of systemic toxicity.

Overall, botox for TMJ may cause side effects, but we consider the side effect profile relatively mild for a medical procedure.

Natural Alternatives

As referenced above, there are several natural alternatives which may be superior to botox for treating TMJ, and significantly cheaper. We recommend that all patients speak with their doctor prior to starting a TMJ treatment, and the below information isn’t medical advice but rather a summary of research.

Physical Therapy

A thorough review on physical therapy for treating TMJ found it to be generally effective. The researchers reviewed various types of therapies such as jaw exercise, posture correction exercise and manual therapy. All therapies were found to reduce TMJ pain on average, with negligible side effects.

The benefit of physical therapy, compared with botox, is that there is essentially no risk. It’s simply a targeted form of exercise. Most doctors will refer a patient to a physical therapist if needed, so it may be worthwhile for patients suffering from TMJ to speak with their doctor about setting up an appointment with a licensed physical therapist.

Red Light Therapy

In our infrared sauna review article, we highlighted the significant therapeutic potential of red light therapy. This treatment works because low wavelengths of red light can actually penetrate the skin barrier and directly influence metabolism.

It turns out that there is research proving that red light therapy is effective for TMJ. An extensive review published in the Pain Research and Management journal surveyed 31 clinical trials on red light therapy for TMJ.

The study authors found that red light therapy effectively relieves pain and improves functional outcomes in patients suffering from TMJ. Like physical therapy, red light therapy has very low risk when set up properly with the help of a trained physician.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This discipline of therapy involves training patients to critically examine negative thoughts or feelings and change behavior patterns to optimize overall wellness. It was shown to be effective for managing PMS symptoms as we recently covered in our Flo Gummies review, and it’s been shown in medical studies to treat TMJ as well.

A meta-review from 2006 found that cognitive behavioral therapy caused negative TMJ symptoms to disappear entirely or improve in 112 out of 136 patients after two months of treatment.

A more recent review, published in The Journal of Oral & Facial Pain and Headache, concluded similar. Researchers found that cognitive behavioral therapy improved outcomes for patients with TMJ.

Will Insurance Cover Botox for TMJ?

Because botox is typically an aesthetic procedure, it's often coded as such and is often not covered by health insurance (even when it's used for functional improvements like to TMJ). 

Some health insurers may cover botox for TMJ, so it's always worthwhile to call your health insurer prior to scheduling a botox treatment to check if the procedure is covered. Be sure to notify the insurer that this procedure is being used to treat a medical condition, and if they approve of the procedure being fully or partially covered, it's useful to get that in writing.

Because botox can cause hundreds to thousands of dollars, it's definitely worth getting price estimates both from a clinic and from health insurance prior to deciding whether to proceed with treatment.

Our Pain Relief Supplement Recommendations

Cinnamon is a spice that has been studied for its ability to reduce pain and support joint health, and it can be taken in a more potent, extracted form. A clinical trial published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that cinnamon supplementation at a daily dose of 500 mg reduced inflammation and joint swelling in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

A 2020 clinical trial found that cinnamon supplementation reduced inflammatory markers. The study authors concluded that “Cinnamon could be regarded as a safe supplement to relieve pain.”

Illuminate Labs manufactures a Ceylon Cinnamon Extract supplement that’s potent (standardized to minimum 8% flavonoids) and third-party tested to ensure purity and label accuracy (test results published transparently on the product page). It only costs $15 for a monthly subscription.

Interested consumers can check out Illuminate Labs Ceylon Cinnamon Extract at this link.

Collagen is the core structural protein in joints. The body produces it naturally, but its production decreases with age. Medical research has shown that collagen is effective for reducing joint pain in athletes at a 10 gram (g) daily dose, and for reducing arthritic pain generally (meta-study, doses ranging between 40 mg and 10 g daily dose).

We recommend Bulletproof Collagen Powder as our top collagen product because it provides an effective collagen dose per serving (20 g) and contains one single ingredient: collagen peptides sourced from grass-fed animals. There are no questionable additives. This supplement only costs $39.95 for over a month's worth of product.

Interested consumers can check out Bulletproof Collagen powder at this link.

Both of these pain relief supplements are vastly cheaper than botox for TMJ, even for several months worth.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

Botox for TMJ may be effective, but there is not enough research to say that it conclusively works in our opinion. Trials performed using botox to treat TMJ had inconsistent results, and used a wide variety of different methods which makes it hard to recommend a specific treatment.

This treatment does appear to be a worthwhile option if all other therapies fail, because research has shown it to be especially effective in patients who were unresponsive to more standard TMJ treatments like physical therapy.

Botox appears unlikely to be covered by health insurance, but it can never hurt for a patient to ask their insurer whether it's covered.




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