Do you ever wake up in the morning with a sore jaw, throbbing head and nagging feelings of stress? And on top of that, you feel like you didn’t sleep a wink? If that sounds like you on a regular basis, you may be a candidate for masseter Botox.
“Masseter Botox is one of the most underutilized therapies involving Botox,” says Anil Shah, MD, a board-certified facial plastic surgeon and owner of Aesthetic Skin Chicago. Here, learn how this 10-minute treatment works and why it may be the key to helping you feel less stressed and better rested.
What is masseter Botox?
You already know that Botox (onabotulinumtoxinA) injections are a quick way to smooth out frown lines and forehead wrinkles. But these days, doctors are using the shots to treat a variety of medical conditions. Why? The compound used in Botox injections freezes a muscle to keep it from moving for a limited time. Because of this, Botox has been found to be an effective treatment against painful muscle spasms, excessive sweating, chronic migraines, and even urinary incontinence.
Now, medical practitioners are adding Botox injected into the masseter muscle to this list of commonly used therapies. “The masseter muscles are a pair of powerful muscles located in the jaw region,” explains Arash Akhavan, MD, owner of The Dermatology and Laser Group in New York City and Assistant Professor of Dermatology at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “The primary function of the masseter muscles is to elevate and close the jaw during the process of biting, chewing, and speaking. They play a crucial role in the mastication of food, helping to break down food particles into smaller pieces for digestion.” (Click through to our sister site to see how chewing your food thoroughly aids digestion.)
In addition, if you grind your teeth at night (a condition known as bruxism) or hold tension in your jaw, your masseter muscles will be working overtime when you’re asleep. It’s for reasons related to this that most people will seek out masseter Botox.
The benefits of masseter Botox
In masseter Botox, the Botox is injected directly into these muscles to help them relax. Given how much the masseter muscles are in use throughout the day (and in people who grind their teeth, throughout the night as well), they can quickly become overworked and over contract on a regular basis. This leads to pain and tension in the jaw. Here’s how Botox can help:
It outsmarts TMJ pain
Overuse of the masseter muscles is one of the top causes of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, a painful condition that masseter Botox can help. “Unlike any other joint, rest is not possible,” says Dr. Shah. “Patients who clinch their mouth at night or chew just about anything will still have pressure on the TMJ. Botox can force the main muscle, the masseter, from over exerting force on the joint. This allows the TMJ to rest, which can frequently (and surprisingly rapidly) improve discomfort.” The result: The jaw will only be in use when you are actively chewing. That means it will be able to rest at night, leading to easier, more restful sleep. (Interested in other ways to catch more Zzzs? Click through to find out how mouth tape can improve your sleep.)
It protects against tooth grinding
If you frequently wake up with a headache or sore jaw, or have had cracked or chipped teeth, you likely grind or clench your teeth overnight. And because you’re doing it unconsciously, research shows you can unwittingly clench down with up to 250 lbs. of pressure!
While night guards can help with bruxism, (click through to find out more about custom night guards) masseter Botox may still be necessary. “A night guard does prevent excessive wear on the teeth,” Dr. Shah says. “However, this does not solve the problem, which is the muscle itself over contracting. Botox can prevent the muscle from contracting, and hence decrease wear on the teeth.”
It wards off tension headaches
While Botox injections for chronic migraines are typically administered in the forehead and scalp, injections in the masseter muscles can help those dealing with tension headaches as well. “A frequent source of headaches for many patients is muscle tension,” says Dr. Shah. “The largest muscle in the face is the masseter, so it’s not surprising that it contributes to many headaches.”
Masseter Botox may be most helpful for people who experience stress or tension headaches that lead to more frequent clenching of the jaw and facial muscles. “Stress is a common trigger for both bruxism and TMJ as well,” adds Dr. Akhavan. “The relief that masseter Botox causes for these issues can help improve the quality of sleep, alleviate pain, and decrease the stress associated with suffering from these issues.”
It slims your jawline
Finally, there is the original purpose of masseter Botox, and the reason the procedure is typically done by plastic surgeons and dermatologists. “Masseter Botox can also help to slim the jawline for some patients who would like to have the appearance of a more defined jaw,” says Dr. Akhavan. (Click through to reveal the best ways to naturally slim a double chin.)
How masseter Botox works
“The procedure itself is typically quick and requires no downtime,” reveals Dr. Akhavan. Using a fine needle, the provider will administer Botox injections directly into the masseter muscles along your jawline. The number of injections and the amount of Botox used depends on the size of the masseter muscles and the desired outcome. The injections are administered in several points on each side of the face to evenly distribute the Botox.”
While the treatment itself is quick, don’t expect your teeth grinding or headaches to disappear the same night. “The results are not immediate, as it takes time for the Botox to take effect and for the masseter muscles to relax,” Dr. Akhavan explains. “Full results are typically visible within two weeks after the treatment.” That said, you may begin to notice a change within the first week.
Temporary side effects may include pain, bruising or mild swelling at the injection site. These issues typically resolve on their own within a few days. If masseter Botox is helpful for you, you can have the procedure done regularly. Depending on the concentration of the Botox injections, the number of injections and placement, the effects can last anywhere from three months to a year. Dr. Shah says that in his experience, the effects tend to last longer than some other Botox therapies because the nerve fibers in the masseter muscle grow back slower than in other areas.
Is masseter Botox covered by insurance?
The short answer: it’s unlikely. These days, most health insurance companies cover Botox if it is used for a therapeutic purpose. However, masseter Botox for the treatment of things like teeth grinding, TMJ, and other conditions is not yet FDA-approved. By comparison, Botox is FDA-approved for the treatment of 11 conditions, including chronic migraines, overactive bladder, severe underarm sweating, abnormal muscle tightness and spasms, and a few other conditions. You can see the full list of approved treatments here.
A study published in the journal Life shows the efficacy of masseter Botox for reducing stiffness in these muscles. But more research is needed before it becomes an FDA-approved treatment. The lack of FDA approval can make getting insurance coverage for masseter Botox an uphill battle. However, it depends on your condition, your provider, and your insurance coverage. It never hurts to ask!
How much does masseter Botox cost?
While the cost of Botox is relatively standard at about $10 to $15 per unit, the number of units you need varies based on the masseter muscles themselves as well as the provider. For this reason, the cost of a single masseter Botox treatment will likely range from about $200 to $1,000.
Interested in finding out if masseter Botox may be right for you? First look for a provider certified in Botox injections. Only physicians, nurses, and licensed medical professionals are eligible to receive a Botox certification. Then, seek out a provider familiar with your medical issue and masseter muscle injections, such as a plastic surgeon or dentist. If your provider finds you’re a good candidate for Botox, relief could be as close as two weeks away!
For natural ways to treat jaw pain, check out these stories:
- Doing This Daily Activity Helped One Woman Get Rid of Headaches and Jaw Pain
- Nagging Jaw Pain? Try These 3 Home Remedies for Natural Relief
- Grinding Your Teeth? These 3 Inexpensive Tricks May Give You Pain-Free Mornings
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.