BOTOX IN DENTISTRY
By: Pedro J. Cuartas, DDS
A dental office is probably the last place you would expect to find Botox used, especially because the most well known use for Botox in the last decade has been for its cosmetic benefits. However, there are many applications for Botox in dentistry. Ask yourself if either you or someone you know clenches or grinds their teeth, has headaches, or migraines. One of the most frequently encountered problems seen in dental patients today is excessive clenching, grinding, and recurring headaches/migraines. Much of this is probably due to the fast pace, high stress lives led by so many. As stress levels rise, along with other possible factors, a person can find themselves clenching or grinding their teeth with enormous amounts of force. These forces can be extremely damaging to the teeth, gums, jaw joints and related muscles. Some of the signs and symptoms of these excessive forces are cracked or chipping teeth, sensitive teeth, receding gums, unexplainable tooth aches, sore cheek, temporal, and/or neck muscles, headaches or migraines. What options exist for people suffering with these symptoms? Most people are not aware that there are treatments available. If you do experience frequent headaches or migraines, you should rule out other possible causes such as vision problems, sinus infections, or certain neurological and vascular issues. If, however, you are not diagnosed with any of these other conditions, then you may consider the following options.
The first option for patients is to reduce stress as much as possible. Finding the time to unwind is difficult for most people, but it would be extremely beneficial. Exercising and a healthy diet have been shown to go a long way in reducing stress. Regular exercise and proper nutrition usually contribute to better sleep as well. Therapeutic massage therapy may also offer great benefits.
The second option is to have some type of dental splint made. There are many types of dental splints available for clenching, grinding and headaches. The kind of splint made would depend on the patient’s particular signs and symptoms and the dentist’s level of experience with these issues. Costs vary with these splints and can be worn on the upper or lower jaw. Most dental splints are very effective in reducing the damage excessive forces can place on the teeth, gums, jaw joints, and muscles. One of the most commonly stated drawbacks to the dental splint is in terms of comfort. Often times, patients find them to be bulky and take some getting used to. Other patients have a sensitive gag reflex and cannot tolerate a splint. So, although splint therapy is a great treatment option, some people would simply choose not to wear them. The third option is employing therapeutic Botox. Botox is a natural protein and is the most powerful muscle relaxant with the least side-effects. One desirable side effect, however, is the smoothing of lines between the brows and in the forehead when treated in this area. It affects only the area being treated and has no effect at all on the rest of the body. So, you may be asking yourself, “How does Botox help with excess clenching/ teeth grinding, headaches and migraines?” Basically, Botox reduces the number of clenching/grinding events and their intensity. As a result, there are less damaging forces applied to the teeth, gums, joints, and muscles. There is a reduction of discomfort and pain in the face. Another benefit is the reduction or elimination of tension headaches and migraines that are the result of clenching/teeth grinding. The desired goal of reducing or eliminating pain is accomplished by re-laxing the muscles responsible for generating the excessive, damaging forces.
There are several commonly asked questions regarding the safety of Botox, the procedure, and the duration of treatment benefits. As mentioned earlier, Botox is extremely effective and safe. It only affects the treated area and if there is an adverse effect it is only temporary because Botox does not stay in the body indefinitely. Therapeutic Botox treatment is a simple, non-surgical procedure. The doctor will have you contract the muscle area to be treated so he/she can determine appropriate injection site. The targeted injected areas may be numbed with an ice pack or topical numbing agent. The doctor will administer several tiny injections of Botox directly in the muscle. Only the injected areas will be “Botoxed”. It will not affect anywhere else in the body. The length of the procedure depends on the number of injections needed as determined by the doctor. It is reasonable for the procedure to be completed within 10-30 minutes. Muscle tenderness will start to disappear almost immediately. Pain and wrinkles begin to disappear within 24-48 hours after the injections. Results of Botox generally last up to four months. Results may last longer with subsequent treatments.
For some people in this fast pace, high stress world, the combination of all three options may offer the best solution for excessive clenching, headaches, migraines, and facial pain. If you have been suffering with any of the symptoms mentioned earlier, consult a Botox certified dentist and see if you are an ideal candidate for therapeutic Botox. In addition to the treatment described earlier, other uses of therapeutic Botox in the dental office include relaxing muscles that prevent mouth opening, relaxing upper lip muscles to reduce “gummy” smiles, and reducing excessive and uncontrolled salivary flow.