I tried botox for my TMJ and I never look back

Truly a life changing experience.

Hi! My name is Hannah and I have TMD – Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (also known as TMJ).

Hannah Marder / BuzzFeed

Here’s a recent selfie of me and my cat. Sorry for the photo quality, I hate taking photos of myself. Also for eagle-eyed readers – yes, I’m wearing a Sunnydale sweatshirt.

Basically, CMD refers to any problem with the hinge joint that connects the mandible to the temporal bone. I can’t remember exactly when I was first told that I had problems with my TMJ, but it was many years ago at the dentist’s/orthodontist’s office. This has been giving me a headache for years.

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TMD occurs when the joints, muscles, and nerves don’t work exactly as they should and can cause chronic facial pain. It can be caused by a number of things, including genetic factors, injury, and bruxism — basically just grinding your teeth. Surgery can help with TMD as a “last resort,” but in my experience (and according to the Mayo Clinic), treatment is much more about relieving symptoms, which include pain around your jaw, its joints, and your ear (sometimes I even get headaches when wearing over-ear headphones, especially if I’m chewing/eating at the same time), difficulty chewing and joint locking. Many people may not need treatment for TMD beyond OTC pain relievers when they occur, and it’s also important to note that many tooth grinders don’t manage TMD.

I can actually hear something popping if I open my mouth really wide and I can see the joint popping out weirdly. I’ve made a GIF below, but if that makes you sick of seeing things moving under your skin… maybe don’t click it.

Hannah Marder / BuzzFeed

I feel like a snake that can unhinge its jaws lol. I can hear/feel a strange popping noise when I do which is another symptom of CMD.

My dentist also told me that I’m pretty bad at clenching my teeth – I find myself doing this all day* and I often wake up with a headache. To solve both of these problems, all my dentist has ever told me to do is wear a mouthguard and take Tylenol since much of the treatment for TMJ is just basic symptom management.

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* I’m scared too, which is a big part of it.

And y’all, I tried the face mask – and I hated it. I can’t fall asleep when I feel something in my mouth. I also find myself chewing almost compulsively, which kind of defeats the purpose. Also, I bite my teeth a lot during the day, especially in cold weather, and I wasn’t planning on wearing a mouth guard 24/7.

I’ve basically just dealt with these headaches for years. I meditate with Tylenol sometimes, but I try not to use it too often, which means I almost always wake up with at least a mild headache. And in the last few months it’s gotten a lot worse. It got to the point where my jaw always felt stiff and it felt like I had a headache.

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^Basically me every morning.

So I decided to do something about it! I had heard in the past that Botox could be used to treat TMD. Basically, it’s injected into the masseter muscles in the lower jaw to temporarily block nerve signals there, rendering it immobilized (aka “relax compulsions”) for a few months.

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It is important to note that while Botox is FDA approved, it is not approved for specific use in the jaw for this purpose. It’s still considered an experimental treatment for TMD. Scientists are still researching the long-term effects, and animal results have suggested a possible loss of jaw bone density over time. Even Botox itself has its own set of side effects and concerns. You should 1000% make sure you go to an experienced injector.

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Healthline recommends going to a board-certified dermatologist, plastic surgeon, ENT specialist, or board-registered nurse who works under medical supervision. Dentists sometimes offer botox injections for TMD, but honestly I felt more comfortable going to someone who basically does botox all day, every day.

I kept these concerns in mind, but since I was trying this as a one-time thing to decide if it was even effective for me, I felt comfortable trying it. I went ahead and booked an appointment at the Trifecta Med Spa in New York because they had a local office, open appointments, and had good reviews on Yelp and Realself.

The whole process was very fast. They explained everything to me (without pushing me into treatment), made me sign some forms, and then took photos. Then I looked back and the injector started! I had to clench, then relax, and then clench my jaw again – I’m not bad with needles and I thought it was just a shot. nope! It might take a minute or so for her to inject it all around the muscles. I didn’t see what was happening, but it felt like the needle was going into a few different spots along my jawline.

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My injector also advised wearing a mouth guard and said she had had great results with it and that it was a lot cheaper. It actually made me trust her a lot more, knowing that she wasn’t just trying to sell me more treatments.

She did the other side and that was it – over in two minutes. It didn’t hurt at all. It just felt like a little flu shot that lasted a minute or two. For reference, she injected 25 units per side, which she believes is her standard amount for TMD and bruxism.

Hannah Marder / BuzzFeed

Many of the other places I researched also advertised 25 units per side, with studies on the effects of botox on TMD suggesting 25-50 units. I got 50 units total, which is probably a bit more than you’d get for forehead wrinkles, for example, making it a bit more expensive. It cost me about $700, which I know is a big expense and not many people can afford – and it’s rarely covered by insurance. My injector recommended getting it done about 3 times a year (since botox lasts about 3-4 months) so that adds up too.

After that I felt perfectly fine and the injector told me I was fine to drink and exercise – you usually have to limit these activities for 24 hours after botox but my injector said it was for the risk of a Fainting applies and does not apply when the botox is injected into the jaw.

My injector told me that I could expect results in a couple of weeks, unlike regular botox where you would likely see results in a couple of days. She also informed me that I may see some slimming of the jaw as the muscles shrink from not being used, but that this change could take months. This is how I looked about an hour before and about an hour after the treatment – as you can see, exactly the same.

Well she was right. I didn’t notice anything for a couple of weeks and to be honest I kinda forgot I did it. But then something magical happened. About 2-3 weeks later I noticed that I no longer woke up with a headache. I soon noticed that I wasn’t clenching my jaw all day. In fact, I only felt jaw pain or tightness after walking around in the sub-freezing New York air for a while.

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I used to get particularly bad headaches after drinking the night before, even if I only had a few drinks, and those went away too!

It definitely wasn’t a sudden difference, but after a month the difference was huge. My headache was basically gone. I was really concerned that my chewing would be affected or that once the botox kicked in I would want to clench my jaw and not be able to, but I had no experience of this at all. Chewing was easy and it was like I didn’t want to clench my jaw anymore. It had been an unconscious but constant behavior, and again, almost unconsciously, I had stopped.

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Now when I try to clench my molars, they just won’t clench all the way. But I really have to make myself try to hold myself together. It’s not my body’s behavior anymore. It’s not literally “healed” like I joke in the gif above since the botox doesn’t affect the actual joint – I’d have to have surgery if I wanted to fix my weird jaw popping. But as something to relieve symptoms, it was extremely effective.

Here are photos of me before and just over a month after my treatment – to be honest I haven’t noticed any jawline slimming although I think it looks that way in the comparison below. I also know that results can build up over time and repeated injections.

Hannah Marder / BuzzFeed

I think my face is only ever so slightly tilted down in the second picture, which makes my face look a tiny bit slimmer. If there has been a change, it has been VERY subtle. Personally I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re just trying to slim your jawline as I feel the effect was underwhelming. Although I’m only there for a month again!

Overall, I’m so glad I tried Botox. The effects have been incredible and while there are risks with long term use which I will continue to monitor and keep in mind, for now at least the risks are worth it to me.

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I will probably try the mouthguard again but continue to get botox for my daily clenching.

Would you ever try botox to relieve jaw pain? Has anyone of you have similar experiences? Let me know in the comments below!

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