Most of us are familiar with Botox as an injectable that smooths wrinkles, but you may be surprised to learn that Botox can be injected into your jaw.
Botox, the brand name for Allergan’s formulation of botulinum toxin, wasn’t even invented with a cosmetic purpose in mind. In 1978, ophthalmologist Alan Scott first used a mild version of the toxin to treat strabismus, more commonly known as crossed eyes. Given that the neurotoxic protein causes minor paralysis in the injection site, it made sense for the condition.
In 1989, the FDA approved Allergan’s Botox as a cosmetic treatment for wrinkles. Since then, Botox has been prescribed for migraines, sweaty palms, and even heart troubles, to name a few.
Recently, Botox has been increasingly used for another common condition: clenched jaw and teeth grinding. It’s sometimes referred to as “teeth Botox,” and this simple procedure could be a lesser-known solution for those who suffer from bruxism.
A Quick Overview Of Bruxism
Bruxism is the involuntary clenching of the jaw or excessive grinding of the teeth. It can happen while awake or during sleep and can lead to not only a sore jaw and headaches, but dental issues including worn enamel, increased tooth sensitivity, and even broken teeth. Our teeth can clench with up to 250 pounds of force, so in the most severe cases, bruxism can result in jaw dislocation.
Awake bruxism, which is unconscious jaw clenching or teeth grinding during the day, could be a reaction to stress, anger, or anxiety. Sleep bruxism, on the other hand, is classified as a sleep disorder and is less understood.
Botox For Bruxism
Studies in recent years have found that injecting Botox shots into the masseter or chewing muscles can prevent the grinding, clenching, and pain associated with bruxism. Botox is not FDA-approved to treat bruxism, but doctors are free to use it as an “off-label” treatment (because the FDA regulates drugs, not physicians, doctors can prescribe approved drugs for any safe indication).
Doctors say that while Botox tends to work well, it’s not a panacea. It can be expensive—around $1,000 per procedure—and usually lasts a maximum of four months. Depending on the reason for masseter muscle botox, it might be covered by insurance in some cases.
Botox in the masseter muscle can also cause side effects. A small number of patients have experienced lopsided smiles that lasted a few days. Other risks for using Botox in any location include bruising, allergic reactions, or changing your face shape.
The latter can be a pro or a con—some people choose Botox injections in the masseter muscle specifically to slim their jawline.
Jaws Of The Pandemic
The American Dental Association believes pandemic stress maybe be to blame for recent increases in teeth grinding and similar issues. In a survey performed by the ADA Health Policy Institute in February of 2021, 70% of dentists reported an increase of patients experiencing teeth grinding and clenching—a more than 10% increase from the fall of 2020. They also reported a 63% increase in chipped teeth as well as cracked teeth, and a 62% increase in temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) symptoms, which include headaches and jaw pain.
Other treatments for bruxism that don’t involve needles exist, including mouthguards, stress management, muscle relaxants, and biofeedback. But “teeth Botox” can be an excellent, low-effort option for many.