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Doctors Using Botox Injections To Treat Jaw Pain

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A growing number of people have trouble related to grinding and clinching their jaws. Many are finding relief with Botox, a popular cosmetic treatment.

Botox is often called "the poison that cures," most popular for easing wrinkles but it's also used to treat other things like headaches and excessive sweating. Now, temporomandibular joint Dysfunction (TMJ) can be added to the list.

Rudi Gibson says TMJ can make her face look distorted and the inflammation in her jaw also makes it difficult to talk at work.

"It sends pain up the side of my head and it tenses all these muscles in here," said Gibson.

"TMJ is an inflammation of the temporomandibular joint which is the joint that allows you to open and close your mouth," said Shimma Abdulla.

Dr. Shimma Abdulla with Rittenhouse Dentists in Bryn Mawr says she sees patients every day who have problems related to TMJ, and the grinding and clinching that goes with it, usually while people sleep.

"People will wake up with headaches, jaw pain, tension in the jaw, sometimes when really bad they'll have lockjaw," said Dr. Abdulla.

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Remedies that Rudi and others have tried include anti-inflammatory medicine, muscle relaxers and bite plates, but they often don't work.

So Rudi decided to try Botox injections.

"Botox has always been used to treat muscle spasms and that is why it's actually the primary use of Botox, people don't realize because they think I'm going to get Botox for wrinkles,' said Gibson.

The Botox is injected into the jaw area to relax the muscles associated with TMJ.

"After I got the injections I was pretty amazed at the results it was overwhelming, the feeling of relief," said Gibson.

Dr. Abdulla says Botox is the only thing that she's seen that's 100 percent effective with no side effects.

"I was so impressed especially for patients that would come in almost crying in so much pain from TMJ, they tried everything, they came in with so much pain and I see them two weeks later and they are a brand new person," said Dr. Abdulla.

The National Institutes of Health says while safe and effective, Botox has not been specifically approved to treat TMJ.

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