Starting the day with a splintering headache happens for me more often than not. The number of mouthguards I’ve gnawed my way through would rival the nibbling skills of a hamster and I’m unable to sit through a football match without chewing away on a piece of gum to prevent my jaw from locking (a trait of any fellow Arsenal fan I presume).
I have TMJ, a form of temporomandibular disorder (a mouthful to say – pun intended) that causes joint pain in your jaw, limiting muscle movement and often causing a lot of unpleasant clicking sounds and pain.
It not only resulted in daily headaches but multiple trips to the dentist, either to get a mouthguard (yet again) or fix a chipped tooth. Ironically, the only muscles I have are in my jaw and they weren’t doing me any favours.
Roughly 5-12% of us suffer from TMJ, with cases occurring mostly in younger people and women suffering twice as much from it as men (quelle surprise). I’d given up seeking treatment from my dentist – with mouthguards coming in at £80 a pop – so I decided to experiment with other routes of treatment. While there are exercises you can try, experts you can see and medications on offer, anti-wrinkle injections to treat the condition were being raved about across social media, so I decided it was worth experimenting with.
“I treat TMJ all the time. It’s so popular, I have about three to four patients per clinic,” Award-Winning aesthetics doctor, Dr Ahmed tells me at his Bond Street practice. He says his patients booking in for this are typically women; “I think it’s because women are more comfortable getting treatments.”
Can anti-wrinkle injections be a treatment for TMJ?
So, how exactly can anti-wrinkle injections treat TMJ? “Acetylcholine (AKA, a neurotransmitter that stimulates muscles to contract) is stopped, so you can’t contract the muscle as much,” explains Dr Ahmed. In general, he says these types of treatments for TMJ should be conducted once or twice a year – less high maintenance than I expected. If you have muscular issues (such as myasthenia gravis) or suffer from blood clots, Dr Ahmed warns this type of treatment won’t be suitable.
I was so focused on stopping the pain element of my TMJ that I hadn’t thought to consider how it was physically affecting me. “I see people with jawlines that are moving towards one side because they grind it more than the other. It can also be the side you chew your food or sleep on and after a while, you really strengthen one side more than the other,” Dr Ahmed explains. Just like if you were to skip several leg days at the gym, eventually the muscles will slim down if not worked on as much, which will result in a slimmer jawline in some cases.
He explains that I should experience fewer headaches within two weeks, and a more slimmed jawline within four. As for aftercare, this is pretty minimal. I’m only advised to skip the booze, sauna and the gym (no issues there) for 24 hours after, as well as being careful with what I eat, as bites can be a bit weaker and more sensitive for a few days after. I ate pasta a few hours later for lunch without any problems but stupidly had granola the next day for breakfast, which made my jaw a little tender.
What should I expect from this TMJ treatment?
As for the treatment itself, I had never had anti-wrinkle injections before, so wasn’t sure what to expect. Expecting the worst, I'd imagined my whole face would go numb and I'd be flopping around like I was in a Rowan Atkinson skit, but it was far less dramatic than that (thank god).
Dr Ahmed got me to tense my muscles as much as I could, drew some dots before I relaxed, and then did roughly four pricks on each side (we did have to go in with more as my jaw muscles seem to have the powers of the Incredible Hulk). I thought it might be similar to the numbing injections you get with dental work, but this was surprisingly more comfortable.
Afterwards, I walked straight to the office – no redness to be seen. My day carried on as normal, except for the fact I wasn’t clenching. The injections had made it more effort than not to tense, which meant my headaches were nowhere to be seen. Other than my hiccup with my granola, I didn’t have to make any changes to my diet (a win-win).
A month later and I can’t remember when my last headache was. The start of the new Premier League season didn’t even seem to set it off, which was unheard of. Although its anti-clenching powers weren't quite as effective a few weeks later, the results seem to have remained consistent and my daily headaches have vanished. I might ask for an extra prick next time in order to cover more muscle, but there will definitely be a next time.
TMJ treatments with Dr Ahmed start from £350.
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