OBJECTIVE: To identify and demonstrate possible alterations of skeletal structures which might follow either unilateral surgical denervation of the masseter muscle, unilateral intramuscular injection of formoterol directly into the masseter muscle, or intramuscular formoterol injection after surgical denervation. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Male Sprague Dawley rats (N = 16; four weeks of age) were prepared as four groups: 1. surgical sham + saline injection into the masseter muscle (sham); 2. surgical denervation of the masseter muscle only (den.); 3. surgical denervation of the masseter muscle plus intramuscular formoterol injection into the affected muscle (den.+form.); 4. intramuscular formoterol injection into the masseter muscle only (form.). The specimens were submitted for CT examination, the skulls and hemimandibles were photographed and measurements of craniofacial bones were made. RESULTS: In this relatively small sample, comparisons between non-experimental and experimental sides revealed differences, both within the groups and for the same measurements between groups, with the den. and den.+form. groups showing the most change. Relative increases in the gonial angle shown in these groups occurred bilaterally, with the change on the experimental side always greater in magnitude than the change on the contralateral side. CONCLUSIONS: Surgical denervation of the masseter muscle leads to an alteration in the size and shape of the skeletal structures close to the zygoma and the mandible. The intramuscular injection of formoterol into denervated masseter muscle seems to limit this skeletal alteration after surgical denervation.