If you tend to grind your teeth, you have a condition people in the dental profession call bruxism. This involuntary behavior can be quite an annoyance for you, and it may even be causing jaw pain, headaches, the wearing away of tooth enamel, gum sensitivity, or chipped teeth. If you've already tried conventional approaches to changing this behavior and have been disappointed in the results, you may be surprised to learn that Botox (short-hand for botulinum toxin) has proven effective as a treatment for grinding teeth.
Using Botox as a Treatment for Grinding Teeth
Really? Botulinum Toxin for Jaw Clenching?
Most people are familiar with botulinum toxin to get rid of wrinkles or plump up lips. But recent studies published in Neurology and Pain Research and Management have shown that botulinum toxin's muscle-relaxing properties show promise in stopping jaw clenching and teeth grinding. At least for some time.
According to a study published in Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal, evidence has shown that botulinum toxin could help treat various non-cosmetic conditions in addition to bruxism, too. Botulinum toxin paralyzes muscles temporarily, making it equally useful in treating other conditions in the head and face (like facial dystonia) in which certain muscles need to be relaxed.
How Does Botulinum Toxin for Bruxism Work?
If you're treated with botulinum toxin for bruxism, a small amount will be injected into the muscles responsible for moving your jaw – most likely the masseter muscle, which is responsible for chewing. It may also be injected into the frontalis and temporalis muscles according to your specific needs. The botulinum toxin will reduce clenching, and it will also help with any accompanying tension and aches in your head that you may be experiencing. Botulinum toxin usually kicks in about 1 to 3 days after injection (but can take up to two weeks), and the effects could last 3 to 6 months.
Are There Any Side Effects of Using Botulinum Toxin for Bruxism?
According to the Mayo Clinic, botulinum toxin is relatively safe when injected by an experienced doctor. There are, however, a few possible short-term side effects, like:
- Pain, swelling or bruising at the injection site
- Headache or flu-like symptoms
- Droopy eyelid or cockeyed eyebrows
- Crooked smile or drooling
- Eye dryness or excessive tearing
In very rare circumstances, botulinum toxin can spread into your body. If you notice any of these effects (hours or weeks after your injection), be sure to call your doctor right away:
- Muscle weakness
- Vision problems
- Trouble speaking or swallowing
- Breathing problems
- Loss of bladder control
It's recommended that you discuss all your treatment options with your dentist, doctor, or oral maxillofacial specialist (a dental surgeon specializing in the teeth, jaws, neck, and head) before deciding to use botulinum toxin to treat bruxism.
What Other Treatments Should I Try Before Botulinum Toxin for Teeth Grinding?
Most likely, botulinum toxin will not be the first treatment your dental professional or doctor will recommend for bruxism. If you tend to grind your teeth in your sleep, a nighttime mouthguard is a typical recommendation. It can decrease damage to your teeth and lessen soreness from muscle tension. Doing muscle relaxation exercises and consciously improving sleep habits (like avoiding caffeine before bed and keeping a regular sleep schedule) can also help with nighttime bruxism.
If you grind your teeth during the day, biofeedback can be helpful. According to the Mayo Clinic, biofeedback uses sensors to monitor the electrical activity that causes muscle contraction. By having a newfound awareness of when you're clenching your teeth, you may be better able to control the tension in your jaw.
How Can I Maintain Enamel on My Teeth?
As someone who grinds your teeth, practicing daily oral hygiene utilizing products that strengthen the enamel is of the utmost importance. Make sure to use appropriate gentle brushing techniques with a soft-bristled brush, and get in the habit of using an enamel strengthening toothpaste.
Having bruxism, pain, and damage to your teeth is an involuntary behavioral habit, so it can be particularly stressful, and you can feel like there's nothing you can do to fix it. But there are various treatments out there that can help you, and Botox may become a more widely recommended treatment in the future. Getting enough rest, eating a healthy diet, and practicing good oral hygiene are all steps you can take on your own to relieve tension in your jaw. And if the problem persists, or has already been persisting, be sure to talk with your dentist or doctor about what bruxism treatments are best for you.
Learn how pervasive tension in the jaw can lead to temporomandibular joint (TMD) disorder.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.