Most of us wouldn’t think of our dentist when we hear the word Botox® (botulinum toxin), but we should.
Dentists in Texas, like Austin Dentist Samantha Hollinger, DMD, can be licensed to use Botox® injections to help patients with pain related to dental problems.
“I was a Botox® patient myself—because of a stressful dynamic at a prior workplace, I found myself clenching my teeth all day long. I’d get in my car at the end of the day and literally be unable to unclench my teeth,” says Dr. Hollinger. “The Botox® injections can help relax all those muscles involved in clenching and gritting your teeth.”
Clenching and grinding of teeth can cause your tooth enamel to wear thin, exposing your teeth to bacterial infection, painful sensitivity, breakage, and other problems.
Clenching and gritting habits can also give you headaches and facial pain. “It’s like if you were doing a squat all day long—you would have sore glute muscles, right?” says Dr. Hollinger. “All the muscles in the face are connected, so if you’re continually contracting them, it can trigger migraines, tension headaches, and facial pain. And, like with an all-day squat, you’re actually developing those muscles, so you can end up with a bulky, sort of masculine jawline.”
Since about 20% of the population—especially women—clench or grind their teeth, the fact that a few shots of Botox® can help is really good news.
Why Botox®? It’s a neurotoxin that binds the muscle receptors and prevents them from contracting. This keeps you from clenching or grinding your teeth for about three to six months. Because those muscles are more relaxed during that time, they weaken a little, extending the effectiveness of the initial shots.
“I really only treat myself with the Botox® once a year,” says Dr. Hollinger. “I find that’s really all I need because of the muscle atrophy.”
Botox® can be also be used to relax and retrain the muscles around a new denture, making the transition to dentures easier.
Though dentists are not currently licensed to give Botox® injections for cosmetic purposes, the areas typically injected to relax muscles involved in clenching and grinding tend to correspond to the same areas injected to reduce wrinkles. So, patients who receive injections for clenching and grinding can also see some improvement in their appearance.
Dr. Hollinger says she often has patients who ask for Botox® injections for temporomandibular disorder (TMD), but she doesn’t recommend it for true TMD. “Some people may think they have temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, but it’s really pain from the muscles they’re using to clench and grind their teeth. In that case, Botox® is a great way to offer relief,” she says. “But if it’s actually TMD, it’s likely that there is a loss of the cartilage in the jaw joint, causing the bones to rub together. Botox® won’t take care of that.”
Dr. Hollinger recommends a full evaluation to determine the cause of the pain. During the evaluation, she also looks for other conditions that would rule out the use of Botox® injections.
“You may clench and grind your teeth at night because you’re trying to open your airway,” she explains. “We don’t want to diminish the muscle capacity and prevent you from being able to breathe.”
If your dentist determines that Botox® injections are right for you, the shots take only 10 minutes. The aftercare, however, is important: you have to stay out of the sun, avoid exercise, and you can’t touch your face for 48 hours. “The Botox® is a very fragile protein,” explains Dr. Hollinger. “It may seem like a little bit of over-precaution, but we want to make sure you get the full benefit and pain relief from the injections.”
Contact TRU Dentistry Austin today to schedule a consultation with a dentist near you. Your dental health starts here.
Visit our Botox Treatment page to learn more information on this treatment.