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With more than 18 million people undergoing both invasive and minimally invasive plastic surgery procedures in 2018 alone, it’s safe to say that cosmetic injectables such as Botox are increasing in popularity. Botox is a popular cosmetic injectable that freezes the muscles in your face, smoothing wrinkles temporarily and creating a more youthful appearance. In addition to its ability to seemingly freeze and even reverse time, Botox is also becoming known for many off-label uses, administered by medical professionals to cure everything from excessive sweating to migraine headaches. But at least one off-label use is raising a lot of concerns in the dental community: Botox for temporomandibular joint dysfunction.

Dr. Kelley Mingus is a dentist practicing in Bend, Oregon. He specializes in, among other things, the treatment of temporomandibular joint dysfunction and says using Botox for the treatment of TMJD is just a plain bad idea.

“First of all, it’s an off-label use, which means it is not FDA approved for that use,” says Mingus.

In order for Botox to be used to treat areas other than those tested and proven safe, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must run tests and see evidence that those off-label uses are safe. Then and only then should those treatments be offered for that particular issue. According to Mingus, treating patients with Botox for TMJD has not been cleared by the FDA, and thus has not yet been proven safe.

“That’s not to say it won’t be in the future,” says Mingus. “But as of right now it’s not, and doctors should not be offering it for that use.”

As if that weren’t enough of a deterrent, Mingus says Botox can be both costly (and not covered by insurance) and ineffective, or worse.

“Botox is a foreign substance entering your body, so there is naturally a chance your body may react negatively to it,” he says.

Furthermore, it could simply not work, leaving you with a costly bill and keeping you in the same pain you were in before your injection.

And then there’s the fact that Botox is temporary, which Mingus says should be a big deterrent.

“I understand the desire for immediate relief, but if you’re using a product like Botox you are only masking the problem,” Mingus says. “It most likely will still come back when the Botox wears off, and it could actually worsen because you’re not correcting it.”

Mingus recommends something called neuromuscular dentistry instead. He says it may take a little longer to treat, but it offers a real solution to temporomandibular joint dysfunction – one that doesn’t require needles in the jaw or yield temporary results.

“Neuromuscular dentistry works, and unlike Botox the results are permanent.”