Although I’ve never been formally diagnosed with TMJ, I’ve been told by dentists that I have a very strong bite and I’ve been labeled a “clencher.” It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I began feeling pain in my jaw when I woke up in the morning and again after a long day at work while I was driving home. I also often suffered from headaches, which resulted from the clenching.
My dentist said I clenched my teeth and that I could benefit from a night guard, which I dished out big bucks for and have worn every single night since (it’s called an NTI and it prevents my back teeth from touching so that they can’t clench while I sleep). However, I still felt a bit of soreness in my jaw, even after several months, and wondered if there were any other options aside from having my jaw broken with surgery to reposition it. Ironically, during this time, I had an appointment scheduled with my dermatologist, Dr. Beer, for something unrelated and the topic of my jaw came up. He said, “You know you can have it injected with a neuromodulator (off-label) to help relieve some of the pain.”
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I had read about this before during research for a story, but never realized it was so accessible and easy and that anyone could do it (you don’t need a dentist’s reference or proof that you have TMJ). Dr. Beer also mentioned that because the neuromodulator (Botox Cosmetic, Dysport or Xeomin) temporarily paralyzes the muscles in the jaw area, it can keep them from getting overworked and protruding from the face as much, which tends to give off a more masculine appearance. (Side note: This type of injection is very popular in Asia because women want to soften the appearance of their square jaw to make it look more feminine.)
After some further research (just bringing it up in the office I found out at least three other women I work with have had it done), I decided to give it a try. The actual treatment is so quick and painless. Dr. Beer told me to clench my jaw and then he injected Dysport (two tiny pricks) into each side—it was over in less than five minutes. I honestly can’t even remember feeling a quick pinch, but that’d be the only “pain” involved.
One important thing to note is that this use of neuromodulators is not FDA-approved, but it is widely available and safe if performed by the right doctor who has experience with the treatment. “Botox, Dysport and Xeomin may be used off-label to treat many types of issues,” says West Palm Beach, FL, dermatologist Kenneth Beer, MD. “In my experience, one of the best is for TMJ due to clenching. Typically, my patients have tried many other procedures and are miserable. I look at the mass of the muscle when the teeth are clenched and decide what and where to inject based on that. But, by no means is this a miracle—it works for some, but not for all.”
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As far as results go, I can say I felt a change as soon as two days after the treatment. My jaw didn’t feel as sore, and after a week or so I noticed my protruding muscles didn’t look as harsh as they did previously. I actually felt like I could have benefitted from one more shot on each side for even more of a result, which Dr. Beer hinted that I might need considering how bad my situation was.
According to Dr. Beer, the results vary from person to person and depend on how severe the problem is and how much product is injected. “If it works, I recommend getting the treatment about every four months, but most people know when it is time to come in because they start to clench and get pain and headaches again.”
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