TMJ pain treatment with injections

By Dr. Aaron Stanes

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    TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint) pain and dysfunction is experienced by 5-10% of people. Often associated with teeth grinding and jaw clenching, TMJ pain can be severe, and unrelenting.

    TMJ pain is the severe, sharp or aching discomfort in front of one or both ears often associated with stiffness of the jaw. A potentially debilitating issue, dysfunction and pain in your TMJ (the jaw joint) can be severe and impair your ability to speak and eat.

    Preventing TMJ pain and dysfunction is possible using muscle-relaxing injections. The treatment causes a controlled relaxation and strength reduction of the bite muscles. The injections are placed precisely with tiny needles into the masseter and/or temporalis muscles that control the TMJ, improving pain and stiffness.

    TMJ pain injections are a convenient treatment for people with TMJ pain and dysfunction. Severe cases may require a combination of injections, a dental guard and pain relief to improve symptoms.

    Benefits of TMJ injections

    Injections for TMJ pain and dysfunction have a number of benefits, including:

    • Reduces TMJ pain
    • Treats teeth grinding and jaw clenching (bruxism)
    • Protects your teeth from damage due to TMJ dysfunction
    • Slims prominent masseter muscles, giving the lower face a more balanced appearance
    • Improve jawline symmetry

    What is the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ)?

    The temporomandibular joint, often called the TMJ, is the joint that connect the jaw bone to the skull. It is located just in front of the ear on each side of the face, and allows for movements involved in speaking, eating and certain facial expressions.

    TMJ dysfunction occurs when the joint does not function correctly, and can be due to trauma, degeneration with age or genetic factors. Dysfunction of the TMJ can cause pain, clicking and abnormal movements of the jaw.

    What causes TMJ pain?

    TMJ pain is a symptom of TMJ dysfunction. A number of factors can contribute to dysfunction of the TMJ leading to not only pain, but clicking, popping, locking and headaches.

    TMJ dysfunction can be due to injury, degeneration of the joint, age-related wear and tear and malocclusion of the jaws.

    Which muscles are involved in TMJ pain?

    Tense and overactive jaw muscles exacerbate TMJ pain. These muscles are primarily the masseter muscles (located at the back of the jawline on each side) and the temporalis muscles (located in the temple on either side of the face).

    Treatment options for TMJ dysfunction disorder

    Most cases of TMJ pain improve on their own without intervention, however this can take 1-3 years.

    A number of treatments are available to improve pain caused by TMJ dysfunction, and a combination approach is often the most effective. Treatments to improve TMJ pain include:

    Behavioural: Avoid extreme jaw opening, avoiding chewy foods and gum, and practicing conscious relaxation of your jaw muscles.

    Medications: Anti-inflammatories and pain relief medication can reduce the pain caused by TMJ dysfunction.

    Mouth guards: Dentists can fit a stabilisation splint to improve the alignment of your upper and lower jaw.

    TMJ injections: injecting botox in the masseter and temporalis muscles is an effective and convenient treatment to reduce pain and bruxism from TMJ dysfunction.

    Surgery: Keyhole surgery can clean out the TMJ, often as a last resort.

    How anti-wrinkle injections can treat TMJ pain

    Anti-wrinkle injections are a colloquial name for botulinum toxin. Botulinum toxin causes a controlled relaxation of injected muscles. When used on the face, they stop skin bunching, reducing wrinkles. It can also be placed in the masseter and temporalis jaw muscles to relax them to reduce tension on the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ).