Forget that Botox was once only used only for annoying Crows Feet around the eyes, or droopy eyebrows and mouths. Botox, or Botulinum Toxin A, is successfully used for crossed eyes, migraine headaches, and incontinence. And now, many patients who suffer from Bruxism or grinding of the teeth are also seeking help and comfort with Botox injections.

What is bruxism? According to the American Academy of Facial Esthetics, “Bruxism is the medical term for unconscious teeth clenching and grinding, either while awake or asleep, which can lead to physical painful and severe dental problems.  Chronic teeth grinding can cause headache, earaches, facial pain, and even migraines. Dental problems from bruxism include loss of tooth enamel, increased tooth sensitivity, and flattening and/or chipping of the teeth. Bruxism sufferers who grind and clench their teeth while sleeping frequently wake up with a sore jaw. Hypertrophy of the masseter muscle, which may lead to the appearance of a severe square jaw, is another side effect of bruxism. Treatments with Botulinum Toxin Type A., commonly known as Botox, can provide tremendous relief from jaw soreness, headaches, and other unpleasant problems associated with Bruxism. Botox treatments for Bruxism can also soften the appearance of the jaw line.”

So what’s a tooth grinding patient to do? Traditionally in the past, dentists would treat teeth grinding with a custom-made night guard to protect teeth during sleep. In addition, recommendations might include a muscle relaxant before bedtime, as well as more holistic approach to the problem, adding meditation, exercise and perhaps, counseling, to help reduce stress and anxiety.

But now, Botox to the rescue!

Over the past few years, Botox has proven to be a treatment option for targeting and treating excessive jaw muscle activity and spasticity. Many other treatments, such as night guards and anti-inflammatory medications address symptoms, but not the source of the problem. Although night guards may successfully protect teeth from damage at night for bruxism sufferers, they are ineffective in stopping the painful side effects of teeth grinding, and do nothing for daytime tooth grinding.

Dentists have been injecting small doses of Botox directly into the large muscle that moves the jaw (masseter muscle) thereby successfully weakening it enough to stop involuntary grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw. Botox significantly relaxes the muscle, reducing the wear and tear on the teeth, due to grinding. Although it is not a cure for bruxism, Botox appears to effectively control uncomfortable symptoms better than a night guard for some patients, and treatment typically lasts for three to four months.

A downside emerged a number of years ago, though, showing evidence that Botox treatment may trigger a dramatic loss of bone density in the jaw. In a 2012 study in the journal Bone, “Rabbits were injected with botulinum toxin on one side of the jaw and researchers found that after four weeks, the bone in the injected side was 'severely decreased'. Three months later only half the lost bone was restored. Another study in the same journal found injecting botulinum toxin into the masseter and temporalis in rats led to a 20 per cent loss of bone from the part of the lower jawbone that supports the teeth.”

In conclusion, do Botox bruxism treatment positives outweigh the negatives? Our bones are constantly renewed; old bone dissolves and new bone is constantly made by cells called osteoblasts. New bone is formed in response to tugging by muscles and impact, and studies are now exploring the effects of Botox on muscle weakening and bone density. For now, the clinical significance of these findings is unclear.

So, consider all treatment options and, as always, it pays to be an informed consumer!


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