I’ve suffered from Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (often referred to as TMJ or TMD) and the associated bruxism (teeth grinding) for a good portion of my adult life. I can’t really pinpoint when or why it started – it’s often put down to stress or poor posture, both of which I have in spades – but I know that it’s painful. Each and every case is different, but at its worse, I was suffering headaches, severe neck and shoulder pain and needing to physically unlock my jaw with my hands every time I woke up in the morning (not to mention the wearing down of my teeth). Long term, TMJ/TMD and bruxism can also lead to a misaligned bite or deformed jaw, uneven tooth wear and asymmetrical facial alignment.

Over the years I’ve tried a bunch of different treatments (osteopathy, chiropractics, remedial massage, myofascial release, facial massage, Gua Sha, mouth guards and ignorance) but none have given any long-lasting result. I toyed with the idea of injectibles for a while – years in fact – but was always hesitant because it’s a) expensive and b) I’m terrified of needles. Finally at the height of my symptoms I decided to visit Ageless Clinics for anti-wrinkle injections (Botox) in the masseter, that is the large, strong muscle that is responsible for chewing (masticating) and supporting the Temporomandibular Joint.

“Each and every case is different, but at its worse, I was suffering headaches, severe neck and shoulder pain and needing to physically unlock my jaw with my hands every time I woke up in the morning (not to mention the wearing down of my teeth).”

Ageless Clinics has two spaces in Sydney, one in the CBD and the other in Bondi Junction. Both are light and bright and feel less clinical, more day spa even if they are kitted out with all the latest and greatest in beauty tech (Ageless also offers treatments like Beauty Boost, dermal fillers, vitamin infusions and Fraxel laser). I went to Bondi Junction where I was treated by Dr. Jeremy Cumpston, a fully qualified injector of commercial fillers and accredited in advanced wrinkle treatment and dermal filler treatments. Working in beauty, I’d heard more than enough about Dr. Jeremy to trust I was in safe hands. He is arguably one of the most highly regarded in his field and is known for his honest, ‘less-is-more’ treatment style – he’s not against denying certain procedures if he feels it’s unnecessary or for the wrong reasons.

It was my first time, so we settled on a “beginner’s dose” (more on this quantity below). This equated to eight injections each side – but Dr. Jeremy uses a fresh diabetic (i.e. tiny) needle for each injection so much to my surprise, the pain factor was low – just a small pinch. It was also quick! I was extremely nervous but I survived and my life (and jaw) are certainly better for it.

I’m now three weeks post-treatment, and the results speak for themselves. Not only is my face slightly slimmer (a bonus), but all my symptoms have disappeared – the pain has subsided, my neck and shoulder muscles no longer feel like they’re made of steel rope and my jaw is normal when I wake up.

While (so far) my experience has been nothing short of amazing, it’s a complex treatment and not one to be taken lightly. Below, Dr. Jeremy answers some questions about Botox injections in the Masseter for anyone who might be considering their options.

Botox for Jaw Pain

Before and after with GRAZIA editor Emily Algar – Botox in the Masseter muscle.

So what exactly is Botox and how does it work?

“So Botox is a purified protein that competes for the nerve – muscle junction. It essentially blocks the nerve from firing the muscle. The protein itself is called Botulinum Toxin A. In nature, Botulinum Toxin (there are over 150+ strains) is produced by bacteria called Clostridium Botulinum, responsible for a rare disease called “Botulism.” Thankfully having Botox (anti-wrinkle) injections uses very purified proteins with no attributable risk of causing serious side effects.” – Dr. Jeremy Cumpston, Ageless Clinics

Should I Try It for Tmj and Bruxism?

“The main reason I see patients requesting it in my clinic is to treat associated symptoms like jaw pain, headaches or teeth damage caused by grinding, usually at night. My thoughts are that it is worth trialling a light dose to see if it has a positive effect on reducing teeth grinding and TMJ dysfunction if you’ve tried other options without success.” – Dr. Jeremy Cumpston, Ageless Clinics

“The Botox essentially softens the Masseter muscle, meaning reduced inflammation in the TMJ joint, less clenching and thus improving all related symptoms. For me personally, almost every symptom (headaches, pain, lock jaw) was gone within 10 days. Before injectibles, I had exhausted quite literally every other option with little to no avail. I’m only a few weeks in, but my personal experience has been so positive that I plan to continue.” – Emily Algar, Beauty Editor and Ageless patient

What Is The Treatment actually Like? How Many UNits Do I need? 

“The dose should be decided by the physician or dentist based on the strength of the Masseter muscle immediately prior to injection. Of course, it will differ from person to person, but typically I start with a lower dose of 15 units each side and recall the patient in two weeks to potentially add five to ten more units each side. We add more than we would in say, the forehead because the Masseter muscle is bigger with more contractile fibers. An average dose might be around the 25 unit mark.” – Dr. Jeremy Cumpston, Ageless Clinics

“Because it was my first treatment, I had a smaller dose as discussed above. So far, so good, but this is something I’ll weigh up with Dr. Jeremy during my next appointment – we might decide on more.” – Emily Algar, Beauty Editor and Ageless patient

Is It Painful?

“I am a huge wuss (I cried during laser hair removal) but honestly, it was not too bad at all – a tiny pinch if anything. Maybe a 3/10 on the pain scale. As mentioned previously, Dr. Jeremy uses a fresh needle for every injection, and although I technically have nothing to compare it to, the sharpness of the needle makes the whole operation a lot smoother.” – Emily Algar, Beauty Editor and Ageless patient

Does it slim the jaw line?

“If you repeatedly treat an enlarged Masseter (from grinding) the muscle will shrink in size – this causes the jaw slimming effect.” – Dr. Jeremy Cumpston, Ageless Clinics

“My jaw line appeared slightly slimmer a few weeks post-treatment, presumably because my jaw wasn’t so clenched and inflamed anymore.” – Emily Algar, Beauty Editor and Ageless patient

Are there any side effects? 

“Some common side effects are pain and bruising at the injection sites that last for a few days. Uncommon side effects can be issues relating to smile appearance. If Botox spreads to muscles involved in smile formation, it can change the way you look.” – Dr. Jeremy Cumpston, Ageless Clinics

“My jaw felt heavy and tender for a few days – I felt uncomfortable washing my face and eating chewy things but I am a hypochondriac. My treatment was on a weekend but I could have easily returned to work straight after. On about day four everything had subsided and I was pain free!” – Emily Algar, Beauty Editor and Ageless patient

How Long Do The Results Last? 

“Effects typically last for four to six months depending on dose used. I would suggest using a splint in addition to regular top ups.” – Dr. Jeremy Cumpston, Ageless Clinics

What is the cost? 

At Ageless Clinics, anti-wrinkle injections cost $15 per unit.

Advice for finding an injector you can trust?

“I think seeing a doctor or dentist who does a great deal of Masseter Botox is essential. It is a specialized area and a slow approach (with strict adherence to anatomy during injecting to avoid smile deformities) is appropriate.” – Dr. Jeremy Cumpston, Ageless Clinics

Editor’s note: Botox is an extremely personal and somewhat serious treatment, so I would absolutely suggest you do further research – this review is designed to educate but it is based on my own experience only. Every patient and injector is different – it’s important to arrive at a decision you feel comfortable with. For more information, visit agelessclinics.com.au.