March 28, 2024

How to manage your TMJ disorder symptoms

Explore the treatment options for TMJ disorder such as nightguards, stress management, or Botox injections.

Reviewed by: Karmay Hung, DNP, AGACNP-BC, CEN
Table of Contents

Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD) can cause symptoms that affect your everyday quality of life. Fortunately, symptoms like jaw pain, headaches, stiffness, difficulty chewing and more can be managed with the right treatment. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the common symptoms of TMJ disorders and five of the best ways to soothe them. Read on to learn more.

What is TMJ/TMD?

TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint and TMD stands for Temporomandibular Disorders. Your temporomandibular joints connect your skull to your jaw and play a vital role in everyday activities like talking and chewing. Temporomandibular disorders cause pain and dysfunction in your temporomandibular joint and the surrounding muscles.

TMD can be brought on by a combination of factors, such as jaw injury, genetics, arthritis, teeth grinding (bruxism), stress and general wear and tear1. TMD can bring on several uncomfortable symptoms, and effective treatment strategies can help manage and reduce these symptoms. Let’s take a look at some of the main symptoms of TMJ disorders next.

Common Symptoms

TMD has a variety of symptoms that can vary from individual to individual. If you have TMD, you may experience one or more of the following common symptoms:

Lockjaw, popping, clicking and stiffness

One of the most common symptoms of TMJ disorder is restricted jaw movement or lockjaw. This can be an uncomfortable symptom that limits your ability to open your mouth fully and makes everyday activities like chewing and talking more difficult. Your jaw also may sometimes feel stiff or fatigued.

It’s also common to experience audible popping and clicking noises when moving your jaw.

Jaw, facial, ear or mouth pain and tenderness

TMJ disorder causes jaw pain, but it can also cause pain that radiates to other parts of the face. Individuals with TMJ disorder also regularly report facial, ear and mouth discomfort, pain or tenderness. TMJ disorder pain can range from a dull ache to a sharp pain, which can significantly impact daily quality of life.

Sometimes the pain from TMJ disorder can radiate even further, causing soreness or pain in the shoulders and neck areas.

Migraines and headaches

TMJ disorder can also cause migraines and headaches. This is likely due to the tension and the stress on the muscles surrounding the joint. Migraines and tension headaches from this disorder can be both frequent and severe.

Difficulty chewing

The pains from TMJ disorder and symptoms that cause dysfunction with the joint can make chewing and talking uncomfortable or even painful. One way to help mitigate this symptom is to avoid, especially chewy foods or to take smaller bites to avoid overworking the jaw muscles. Chewing gum and chewing ice can also exacerbate symptoms, so it’s good to avoid this as well.

Muscle spasms

Muscle spasms in the jaw in the surrounding muscles can also happen with this disorder. Spasms can cause further tension in the jaw and face, which can exacerbate pain and tenderness.

TMJ Disorder Treatment Options

Fortunately, there are various treatment options that can address the symptoms of TMJ disorder and provide some relief.

Some of the most common treatment options include mouth guards, physical therapy, stress management, medications, lifestyle changes and masseter Botox injections. Let’s take a look at each of these options.

Mouth guard

A mouth guard can help reduce the symptoms of TMJ disorder for individuals who clench and grind their teeth during sleep (bruxism). In addition to alleviating jaw pain and tension, it can also protect your teeth from the wear and tear caused by teeth grinding.

It’s best to get your mouth guard customized by a dentist to make the guard as comfortable as possible and ensure a proper fit. The dentist can take a mold of your teeth and create a guard perfectly fitted for your mouth.

Stress management

Stress can exacerbate the symptoms of TMJ disorder, especially if you’re prone to jaw clenching and teeth grinding. Adopting stress management techniques can help you relax and possibly alleviate some of the tension and pain in your jaw. Some common stress management techniques include meditation, yoga and breathing exercises.

Some lifestyle changes like exercising more, getting enough sunlight and getting enough sleep can also help manage overall stress levels.

Medications

Medications may also be an option to manage TMJ disorder symptoms. There are several over-the-counter and prescription options, including pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers and antidepressants.

It’s worth noting that some medications, like antidepressants, may cause bruxism. Also, some medications may be better options than others depending on your health history and current medications you’re taking. It’s a good idea to speak with your health care provider to determine the best medications for alleviating your TMJ disorder symptoms.

Lifestyle changes

In addition to implementing different treatment options and therapies, you may be able to reduce TMJ disorder symptoms by making some slight lifestyle changes to habits that may exacerbate your symptoms. If you have TMJ disorder, you may want to avoid:

  • Chewing ice
  • Chewing gum
  • Sleeping on your stomach
  • Chewing on pencils or using your teeth as tools
  • Taking big bites when eating

Masseter Botox injections

Masseter Botox injections may also be a solution for TMJ disorder symptom relief. Botox injected into the masseter muscles can temporarily freeze muscle activity and relax the muscles, easing tension and pain in the jaw.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at masseter Botox for TMJ.

The various symptoms of TMJ disorder can cause discomfort and negatively affect quality of life. The severity of symptoms can vary for individuals, but pain in the jaw, especially when chewing or speaking, is one of the most common signifiers.

Those with TMJ disorders typically experience a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw
  • Teeth grinding/bruxism
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Locking of your joint
  • Facial pain
  • Jaw stiffness
  • Popping or clicking of the jaw
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Tooth pain

About Masseter Botox for TMJ

Masseter Botox is a common cosmetic Botox treatment that helps to slim the jaw and give it a more contoured appearance. But, it has also gained popularity as a way to treat the symptoms of TMJ disorders. It specifically targets the masseter muscles that are affected by this disorder.

As mentioned, TMJ disorders can be brought on or exacerbated by tension and stiffness in the jaw and masseter muscles. Botox uses a tiny amount of a neurotoxin that temporarily freezes the masseter muscles. This weakens the muscle and causes it to relax, which can alleviate the discomfort from the symptoms and improve jaw function.

Although the results of masseter Botox are temporary, it offers a more long-term solution than treatments like daily medications. To maintain the results of masseter Botox, you may only need to return for sessions every three to six months. Studies also back up masseter Botox’s efficacy for TMJ disorder symptom relief.

One preliminary study into the effects of Botox for TMJ disorders found improvement in the majority of subjects six weeks after treatment. 85% of patients reported improvement in pain when opening their mouth, and 90% showed improvement in pain when chewing. 75% of patients saw improvement in joint clicking and noises. In addition to improving symptoms for the study participants, minimal adverse effects were observed.2 It’s important to note that this was an uncontrolled pilot study, but the preliminary results were promising. Larger studies with longer-term follow-ups may provide additional insight into Botox’s efficacy as a TMD treatment option.

Another study concluded that Botox provides long-term relief by reducing the intensity, frequency and duration of recurrent episodes.3 So, you may want to consider talking to your health care provider about masseter Botox if you are dealing with TMJ symptoms. Especially if other treatment options haven’t provided sufficient relief.

While it’s always good to speak with your health care provider about potential treatment options, it isn’t necessary to get a referral for masseter Botox. A qualified injector can provide you with a consultation to determine if you’re a good candidate for treatment. But, you should make sure to choose an injector with expertise in masseter Botox treatments. Every person’s face is unique, and the best masseter Botox injectors will have a comprehensive understanding of facial muscle anatomy to ensure treatment is administered properly. Misplaced Botox injections in the risorius muscle, which is close to the masseter muscle, can temporarily affect the smile or lead to jowls.

In short, masseter Botox injections could be a good solution for treating your TMD symptoms, but you should make sure to choose an experienced and knowledgeable injector. The Certainly platform can help with that.

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Sources:

1. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/temporomandibular-disorder-tmd

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9966495/

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4549724/

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