Botox first made headlines in the 1970s to correct misalignment of the eyes (strabismus). In later years, it became ever more famous as a revolutionary way to erase years of age off your face, but this simple injection has others uses as well. Botox in dentistry has been in use for the last decade as a solution for a variety of dental issues that are unresponsive to other treatments.

How is Botox used in dentistry?

German physician Justinus Kerner first developed the use of the botulinum toxin A in the 18th century as nerve disruptor. Botox is the common name for botulinum toxin A.

When not presented in a clinical setting, botulinum toxin A is responsible for food poisoning, a potentially harmful condition. Medically, this toxin is safely injected into the treatment area, blocking the release of the chemical acetylcholine. This action relaxes and then paralyzes the muscles under the skin.

Although used with great success in cosmetic surgery for nearly 50 years, Botox in dentistry is a newer treatment option. The American Academy of Facial Esthetics estimates that very few dentists in the U.S. are utilizing it – less than 8%.

For many in the dentist’s office, however, this injectable treatment offers a solution to dental conditions that have been unresponsive to traditional treatments. Botox in dentistry may help with:

  • Bruxism
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • Chronic migraine
  • “Gummy” smiles

Botox for bruxism

Bruxism is an involuntary action of the jaw that comes in two forms: awake and sleep.

Awake bruxism generally occurs during the day and may be associated with jaw clenching. People who suffer from this form generally see their symptoms get worse as the day progresses.

Sleep bruxism is prevalent at night, with sufferers both clenching their jaw and grinding their teeth. Because of this, people with this condition often wake up with symptoms that diminish during the day.

Bruxism is the root cause of many dental issues, including temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), cracked or broken teeth, and periodontal disease. Botox for bruxism helps to relax the muscles of the jaw so that involuntary clenching of the jaw is not possible either during the day or at night.

Botox for TMJ

Temporomandibular joint disorder (known commonly as TMD or TMJ) is a chronic pain condition that affects approximately ten million people in the U.S. TMJ involves the temporomandibular joint. This sliding joint connects the lower jaw with your skull at a point right in front of each ear. The temporomandibular joint allows us to eat, talk, yawn, and otherwise open our mouths.

When the temporomandibular joint is damaged by injury or trauma, deterioration due to arthritis, or erosion in the joint or the disc that cushions it, patients can experience pain and difficulty eating and talking.

Dental Botox helps to relax tight muscles in the jaw to prevent further damage and ease painful symptoms. Many patients who have tried everything from night guards to muscle relaxants find relief with Botox for TMJ.

Botox for migraines from TMJ

One of the major side effects of TMJ is excruciating migraines that impact daily life. The temporalis muscle is involved in all actions of the jaw. When we talk, chew gum, or eat, this muscle is the engine that powers the motion. If overtaxed or stressed by bruxism that leads to TMJ, the temporalis muscle becomes tight and sore. This can cause severe migraines.

Another factor in TMJ headache is the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve enervates the face and jaw, originating just above the mandible in front of the ear. Typical movements that would cause TMJ (clenching, grinding, or trauma) can cause the trigeminal nerve to release chemicals that produce swelling in the brain and sinus cavity, causing migraine.

Botox for migraines works to relax both the temporalis muscle and deaden the trigeminal nerve. These two actions can relieve the pain of migraine headaches.

“Gummy” smiles

When a patient has a high lip line, the result is a smile that displays excessive amounts of gum.

This use of Botox is more of a cosmetic application, but it is important to note that imperfections in the smile can affect a person’s self-confidence. An injection of Botox in the muscles that control the smile limit the lift of the upper lip to display more shining teeth and less gum.

Is dental Botox safe?

Although poisonous when accidentally consumed in food, dental Botox is generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

As with any medical procedure, there are risks to be aware of, including the following possible side effects:

  • Soreness at the injection site
  • Temporary weakness in the muscles that were injected
  • Atrophied muscles over long periods of use (this slackness is reversible when use of Botox is discontinued)
  • Flu-like symptoms that include nausea, palpitations, and weakness

Most symptoms generally disappear within a day or two, but it is important to talk to your doctor if they persist.

Patients with a hypersensitivity to any type of botulinum toxin or who experience infection at a previous injection site should not continue to use dental Botox (or Botox for any use).

Complications as a result of treatment are exceedingly rare. In some cases, a poorly placed injection can cause paralysis of a facial muscle that was not targeted (e.g., the eyelid). Generally, this complication is temporary but is an important reason to seek out a highly qualified and experienced dental professional for treatment.

What can I expect during a Botox procedure?

Your dentist will identify the muscle groups targeted for treatment. If pain is a concern, they may apply a topical pain medication to numb the area being injected. Your dentist will then administer a series of injections directly into the muscle. This may feel like a pinch or a stinging, but as the Botox begins to work there should be very little sensation.

The entire procedure will take between 20 and 30 minutes, with the effects lasting approximately three to four months.

AZ Dentist is your Phoenix area TMJ dentist with experience in dental Botox for a variety of conditions. Get in touch today to discuss your options.