Treating TMJ Disorder: What it’s like to get a jaw Botox and TMJ splint

Jaw pain, clicking sounds when you open your mouth, lockjaw, and discomfort when chewing – these are just some signs that you may have a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Although it’s wordy, TMJ refers to that sliding hinge-like part that connects our lower jaw (a.k.a. mandible) and skull. To be honest, I didn’t know what a TMJ was until a dentist specializing in treating TMJ disorders noticed how the jaw part of my face was a bit “uneven”.

Before I knew what it was called, I started experiencing jaw discomfort around 2014 or 2015 (not so sure about the exact year anymore). Like anyone from a typical Filipino family, I shrugged off the pain as typical “muscle pain” or “ngalay” that can be addressed by paracetamol. Throughout the years, I’ve experienced lockjaw multiple times without knowing what it was because I never find time to go to the hospital for a checkup until I’m writhing in pain. I’ve ignored all the signs, including the clicking sound and slight pain whenever I try to open my mouth really wide, as well as recurring discomfort when chewing hard food because my jaw was still functioning anyway. Talking to Dr. Darwin Ferrolino of Variahealth made me more aware and even conscious about all these. After all, he specializes in orthodontics, TMJ, implants, and aesthetic dentistry. He was able to point out a budding problem that no other dentist saw before, considering that I do annual visits for company check-ups!

Dr. Darwin explaining what TMJ is and what needs to be done in order to fix my jaw problem.

How to know if you have a TMJ disorder?

Easiest and most accurate way would be to visit a specialist. Dr. Darwin of Variahealth is an expert on this and I learned a lot from him! However, you can also do an initial assessment prior your visit to the clinic by answering the following questions:

  • Do you grind your teeth at night?
  • Do the joints near your ear hurt from time to time?
  • Do you feel stiffness or discomfort at the side of your jaw whenever you eat or talk?
  • Have you experienced lockjaw?
  • Open your mouth really wide and closely it slowly. Is there a weird or clicking feeling at the sides of your face?

If the answers are mostly yes, I would suggest that you get yourself checked. Your dentist would probably ask you to get a Panoramic and TMJ Transcranial X-ray, just like what Dr. Darwin asked me to do. My x-rays looked bad because I also have impacted teeth that requires surgery, but that’s a story for a different post.

What causes a TMJ disorder?

There are different causes of TMJ disorder and this includes trauma (e.g. accidents that damage the jaw), improper bite, habitual grinding of teeth, jaw problems since birth, and even arthritis.

Can TMJ disorder be treated?

A TMJ splint used for splint therapy.

According to Dr. Darwin, it can definitely be solved but it would take some time. The most common way to address it would be to use a TMJ splint – an acrylic dental appliance that takes the shape of your upper or lower teeth – to adjust our bite. This way, our TMJ won’t be stressed too much and it can take some time to heal. It’s also said to help improve our jaw function and relieve pain.

Creating a mouth splint will take a few days but one way to immediately help alleviate pain is to get a jaw Botox (a.k.a. botolinium toxin).

PART 1: GETTING JAW BOTOX FOR JAW PAIN

When people say Botox (a popular botolinium toxin brand), top of mind would usually be that it’s for pure aesthetic purposes. However, Botox can help relax our jaw muscles and address teeth grinding while we wait for our splints to be ready. Getting a more defined jaw is just a plus! Wellness comes first, of course.

The spot where the Jaw Botox was injected. According to Dra. Jen, this can help relax the muscles and alleviate the pain caused by my TMJ disorder.

Aesthetic effects of the Botox would take 3-5 days, but it’s not that drastic so it’s okay. No bleeding, no pain, no downtime, and definitely no swelling. Just don’t massage the area where the Botox was injected. Dra. Jen Escalderon of Variahealth did this in just a few seconds, I wasn’t even able to film the entire process. It was that quick!

Before and a week after getting a jaw botox (Photo courtesy of Sylver Sy / Iconic MNL)

My jaw doesn’t feel as stiff as before but there’s still a bit of discomfort. It was able to help, though! Plus, the picture-perfect jaws are A+!

Total cost will depend on the areas to be treated as botolinium toxin is priced per unit. It will usually reach around Php 8,000 to Php 10,000 for multiple areas but that’s already a one-time procedure. I also got Botox for my crow’s feet.

PART 2: GETTING A TMJ SPLINT

An assessment must be made before your dentist issues a proper x-ray request form, which you’ll need to present at a clinic or hospital that offers both a Panoramic and TMJ Transcranial X-ray. The x-ray result will be available within a few minutes so you can do it a day or two before your next dentist appointment. My TMJ is already super thin and my left bone already has a weird shape:

Sample x-ray showing the TMJ

After presenting my x-ray results, my upper and lower teeth were measured using a dental putty. The mold was used to create an acrylic splint which I’ll have to wear for at least 3 months (max of 8 months for the worst case). Although it looks scary, the putty doesn’t have a bad taste and the only thing you’ll need to do is to keep your mouth open for a few seconds ’til it hardens a bit. That’s it!

Putty inside my mouth! This creates a mold of my current bite. (Photo courtesy of Sylver Sy / Iconic MNL)

Getting the actual splint took 3-5 days so I’m glad that I got a Jaw Botox to help my jaw issues. After a week, I went back to Variahealth to get my splint, which looks like this:

A closer look at the splint, which people with TMJ disorder needs to wear to help correct their bite. Each splint is created based on the shape of the wearer’s teeth.

Wearing the splint felt a bit painful during the first week but you’ll get used to it! Expect some mouth sores, discomfort when chewing, and difficulty in talking ‘cos you won’t be able to pronounce your “s” properly. Something worth considering especially if your job relies on your voice. You’ll also have to religiously brush your teeth and your splint because food tends to get stuck around it. Brushing your teeth and splint will be the only time that you’ll be allowed to take it off. I sometimes remove my splint briefly while talking to someone on the phone because they can’t understand what I’m saying. Those are the downsides for now but these are nothing compared to the good effects to our overall wellness once our TMJ gets better.

Left: Dr. Dar explaining how I can better take care of my teeth and TMJ / Right: Showing the gap created by the splint inside my mouth (Photo courtesy of Sylver Sy / Iconic MNL)

Expect monthly check-ups upon getting the splint as well! According to Dr. Darwin, the splint’s height will be lessened over time to help my jaw get used to the correct position.

Splint therapy usually costs around Php 25,000 – 35,000 depending on the severity of a person’s TMJ disorder. I would suggest that you schedule an appointment with your dentist to see what kind of therapy (worst case is surgery) that you’ll need. I recommend Dr. Darwin of Variahealth! He’s really good at it and he explains things in a nice way. It’s as if you’re talking to a friend that you’ve known for a long time.

Me, holding the legendary tooth at the clinic, and Dr. Darwin Ferrolino of Variahealth! (Photo courtesy of Sylver Sy / Iconic MNL)

For inquiries and to book an appointment, send a message to Variahealth or Dr. Darwin via:

P.S. I didn’t know that this was a common thing! It was surprising to see replies under my TMJ posts via Instagram Stories a few days back so I’ll continue blogging about my TMJ treatment in the next few months. Hoping for the best results!  I’ll write a follow-up blog once my TMJ gets fixed. 🙂

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P.S. TMJ video coming soon! Subscribe to our YouTube channel to be notified.

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