Best known for smoothing wrinkles, Botox is wowing the medical community with its wide range of applications. Derived from one of the deadliest toxins known to man, Botox is used in tiny amounts to treat more than a dozen different conditions.

In dentistry, it is used to combat muscle stiffness, jaw pain and tension headaches caused by TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint) disorders and teeth grinding.

Botox also provides relief from chronic migraines for many who suffer from this debilitating condition.

Grinding the teeth can cause tension headaches and jaw stiffness. On both sides of the head at the point where the jawbone meets the skull, the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) is used during talking, eating, swallowing, and other everyday activities.

If this joint becomes displaced or is overworked through excessive teeth grinding, a person might suffer severe tension headaches, as well as sharp pain in the jaw. Botox relieves jaw tension by making the muscles unable to engage in the powerful, often unconscious movement of the jaw that produces headaches and pain.

In cases of severe stress, Botox can even minimize lockjaw.

Using Botox to treat TMJ and muscle stiffness is still considered experimental, but studies show it can be extremely effective. Most patients experience noticeable improvement within one or two days of their first treatment, although relief can take up to a week.

Numbing proposed injection sites with a cold pack or anesthetic cream could reduce the pain of Botox injections. If you are scared of needles, the doctor might offer you laughing gas.

After the Botox treatment, there might be mild temporary bruising, numbness, or redness around the injection sites. Because the Botox treatment procedure is non-surgical and non-invasive, the patient can usually return to normal activities immediately.

However, to avoid spreading the toxin to other muscles, patients should not rub or massage the area injected with Botox. Physical activity should also be limited for a time.

As with any medical procedure, there are possible risks and side effects when using Botox. Since this is a non-surgical treatment procedure, the risks and possible complications are infrequent, minimal and temporary. The most common reported side effects of Botox treatment are headaches, respiratory infection, flu syndrome, temporary eyelid droop, and nausea.

Less commonly reported effects of Botox are pain, redness at spot of injection, and muscle weakness. These symptoms are thought to be connected with the Botox injection and occur within the first week. Botox injection treatments should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation.

James G. Jenkins, D.M.D. is the owner of Bluffton Dental Care in Bluffton.