I tried Botox to cure my chronic jaw pain, here’s how it went

Botox is a metamorphic beauty treatment, for those who choose to revel in its wonder. Aside from keeping faces vibrant and youthful, there is a selection of ‘off-label’ uses that have been holding the wellbeing industry captive. From encouraging hair growth to warding off excessive sweating, people are trying it all — including easing the tension felt from TMJ.

If you have never heard of it before, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is an essential part of daily life. The joint acts like a sliding hinge on each side of the jaw, connecting your jawbone to your skull. A TMJ disorder can cause pain in the joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement, and speaking from experience, it can be excruciating. 

Recently, I discovered that TMJ is actually really common — a lot of people just don’t know that they have it. When I talk to friends about the constant clenching, clunking and clicking my jaw would make, they often say, ‘I get that too, I just didn’t know it was a thing.’TMJ

But it is a thing — and it’s something worth making a fuss about. Most people who live with TMJ tend to grin and bear it, until it hurts too much to fake a smile. It’s not just pain either; it’s teeth grinding (bye enamel), audible sounds from constant jaw dislocation, muscle tension, migraines, dizzy spells and, in bad cases, eventual degradation of the jaw socket; symptoms that can be debilitating when ignored. It’s not entirely rare either (thought to impact around 12% of people).

TMJ can be caused by a range of things, from the more obvious: physical injury, arthritis, jaw clenching, grinding the teeth during sleep and dental surgery, to the quirkier: resting your chin on your hand as you stare at a computer, playing the violin or, of course, stress.

Short of jaw reconstruction surgery, there’s not a permanent fix. Over the years I’ve tried everything from mouthguards to physiotherapy exercises and found little relief. Nighttime teeth grinding is a habit I’ve retained from childhood and I thought there really wasn’t anything I could do about it, until recently. 

On hearing the audible clicking of my jaw over dinner, a friend shared how she subsided her TMJ with masseter Botox, and at that point, my jaw muscle had become so prominent that my face was asymmetrical, so I figured I had nothing left to lose.

TMJ is associated with a hyperactive masseter muscle, so it makes sense that many people find relief from a muscle relaxant like Botox. The dose and treatment protocol differs for each person, but for me, all it took was 20 minutes in a chair, 15 units of Botox into the left side of my jaw and a mere $255, and I found instantaneous relief.

Cosmetic injectors advise it can take up to two weeks to see the full effects of muscle relaxants, but it took me less than two hours to observe that my jaw no longer clicked when it opened (to the same extent) and my chipmunk cheek was noticeably more slender. As someone who is confidently lazy when it comes to beauty routines, I couldn’t have dreamt of a better result. 

Two days post injection, I paired before and after images side-by-side. For the first time in years, I wasn’t burdened by the sight of a wonky face looking back at me. Since then, my migraines have been non-existent, and the daily dizzy spells have subsided exponentially.

Sure, there are downsides to this treatment. Like all Botox, it’s not permanent. Mine is expected to wear off in the next six months — at which point I’ll be patiently waiting for my next dose. As of now, I’m a loyal convert.

Wellbeing


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