Botox. I know it’s still a bit of a taboo subject to a lot of people. But to be honest, when done by a great, qualified professional it has SO many benefits- ones that go beyond just looking young and wrinkle-free. I have suffered from TMJ for years and have tried so many “fixes” that never worked for me. Everyone recommended a mouth guard, but I would always spit mine out every night in my sleep and would just continue on grinding away.
So…what’s the big deal with TMJ, grinding your teeth at night and clenching? LOTS. It has caused gum loss for me- I’m on my way to needing gum grafting in the very near future due to a receding gum line caused by grinding my teeth at night (and brushing my teeth too hard for a large portion of my life). And that process is painful, from what I hear, so I want to put that off for as long as possible by not allowing the situation to get any worse. I also get so much jaw pain from the grinding at night and clenching during the day. The grinding at night is sort of out of my control, but the clenching during the day is something I can control, but something I also don’t really realize I’m doing all the time. I do it when I am focusing and stressed- kind of something I don’t think about or realize I’m doing most of the time. I try to catch myself but when it’s such a habit, it is very hard to control. And aesthetically speaking, it had made my face wider at the jaw- like more square looking. I have always had a heart shaped face and I love my jawline, but the TMJ had over developed my jaw muscles (masseter muscles) so much that they were protruding and giving my face a wider appearance. Didn’t love that either. Jaw pain, soreness and a super squared jaw line had me NEEDING a real, long term solution because those mouth guards were just not cutting it.
I finally asked my dentist, actually, if there was something else I could do to help the whole situation and she suggested I go to a Plastic Surgeons office for TMJ Botox. It seemed extreme at first and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to move my mouth etc- you know, all the normal concerns that come up with the concept of putting a paralyzing toxin into your face muscles. EEK! Scary! Keeping my face working normally is everything as an actor- I can’t have something mess me up, you know??
So I did some research, talked to some trusted friends and colleagues and found Dr. Chiu in Beverly Hills. I scheduled my appointment for the BHPS MediSpa…and WOW I am so glad I did! First of all, his office is so chic and I’ve never had to wait- great service and a clean, beautiful space totally makes the experience better! He also really eased my nerves by explaining the whole procedure, what to expect and told me it would help so much with the clenching, grinding and overall pain. PLUS, he said it would definitely slim my jaw line just enough without making anything look obvious or dramatic- basically to get me face shape back to how it was before TMJ became an issue in my life. On top of all that, he always answers my ten thousand questions I have about botox, facial treatments, skincare…whatever! He is a wealth of knowledge, super honest and VERY conservative. He would rather do LESS at first, see the results and then add more if a patient needs it, which I love. You never want to see a doctor who pushes more procedures on you or always tells you do more. LESS IS MORE! Always.
BTW: after my first session of TMJ botox with Dr. Chiu, I scheduled my first PRP microneedling with him, which I wrote about months ago…LOVE IT too.
I have gotten a TON of questions from all of you in Instagram about Botox for TMJ…so I want to make sure I answer them all here! First things first: does it hurt? To me….no. But I’m also totally fine with needles and have a high pain tolerance. I don’t use numbing cream…I just go through it and it feels like a needle poke and then a little weird when going into the muscle but not, like painful, you know? Just a funny feeling, but it’s over SO quickly. If you are more sensitive, tell the doctor beforehand so you can get some numbing cream and lots of ice. The whole ordeal takes no more than 10/15 minutes- a bit longer if you need numbing cream. Typically, there will be a few different injection points on each side of the jaw and you will have to clench and relax so the injector can make sure the needle is going into the belly of the masseter muscles. In most cases, anywhere between 10-20 units will be used on each side and the needle poke marks will be red for a sec but they go away with a bit of ice after 15/30 minutes. Super easy.
After your treatment, you need to refrain from exercise for the rest of the day…as with any botox injection, and you will start to feel the results within 3-7 days. For me, the muscles started to look smaller and feel less strong after about a month. Over the course of 1.5 years I have had this treatment done 3 times with Dr. Chiu, each time with fewer units of botox on each side. You taper off as the muscles weaken. This third treatment will most likely be my last because the goal with this treatment is to weaken the muscles, eliminate the TMJ and never have to really think about it again! Dr. Chiu told me I may need a tiny bit of touch up once every year or two, but it kind of all depends on the person and if my jaw muscles kick back into gear again down the road.
Another question I keep getting is: Does it work??? UM…YES! If it didn’t work, I wouldn’t have done it again after my first session. It also doesn’t really change the way you chew or move your jaw either- everything feels pretty normal. I guess the only difference is that my jaw gets a little tired more quickly. For example, I don’t really enjoy chewing gum anymore because after 10 minutes my jaw feels tired…but I kind of hate chewing gum anyway because I think it looks tacky so no big deal to me! Also, after my first session I found it took more work to chew hard, super crunchy foods. Not impossible to do, but my muscles were weakened so I wasn’t able to plow through an entire bag of baby carrots like a machine anymore lol, but do any of us really need to be able to do that? Nope. We actually don’t need super strong jaw muscles! A normal masseter muscle allows us to chew everything we need to, so weakening them if you have super active ones like I did, doesn’t do anything negative to your chewing ability.
How much does it cost? Well this totally depends on the office you go to. Most offices will charge you per botox unit…and you will probably need between 10-20 units per side. So lets say between 20-40 units total depending on your situation. Now, let’s say the office you go to charges $14 a unit- you can expect to pay between $280-560. It all depends on the price per unit. That being said, you will most likely go months and months in between sessions and taper off the amount of units used so it’s an expense for a year to year and half and then hopefully you’ll need little to none ever again. Very different than regular forehead botox, which you need to maintain every 4 months or so.
So where am I at now? I don’t grind or clench at all! My chewing isn’t affected and my squared jaw has slimmed slightly back to how it was before I developed TMJ. I am absolutely thrilled with my results!
Now lastly, and maybe most importantly, if you are considering this treatment I HIGHLY suggest you go see a board certified plastic surgeon. DO NOT GROUPON YOUR FACE GUYS!!! This is your face, and your facial anatomy is intricate- you need to go see someone who knows what they are doing, even if it will cost you a little bit extra. It is worth it for this. Obviously, if you live near the LA area, I highly suggest Dr. Chiu…but if you don’t live here, do your homework and research the best doctors in your area.
If you have any additional questions I didn’t cover here please reach out on my latest Instagram post @KatrinaKBowden or comment below! Also follow Dr Chiu @DRCHIUBHPS to ask him questions and see ALL of what he does!