If you’re one of the 10 million people in the UK currently walking around with a vice-strained jaw, then the symptoms associated with it are probably all too familiar to you: headaches, facial and neck pain, worn teeth, a strong jaw (the list goes on ).
But the list of reasons why we grind our teeth (officially known as bruxism) is a little less extensive. “I’ve noticed a significant increase in cases of teeth grinding,” confirms plastic surgeon and cosmetic practitioner Dr. Ashwin Soni. “It’s often associated with increased stress and anxiety, which we’re all experiencing at some level in the wake of the pandemic.”
Botox (or botulinum toxin) is the gold standard procedure for people striving for a smooth forehead, but its use goes beyond simply fighting wrinkles. In addition to its ability to reduce excessive sweating when injected into the palms and armpits (it blocks signals to overactive sweat glands), it can also be used to relax the masseter muscles of the jaw, which are responsible for excessive clenching.
dr Soni points out that like any overactive muscle in the body, the masseter muscle can increase in size over time, causing bloating or widening of the jaw. “When you inject Botox into that muscle to relieve the symptoms of teeth grinding, it also helps slim down the jawline,” he confirms.
Is jaw botox painful?
If you’ve ever had botox for forehead wrinkles, it won’t feel like anything out of the ordinary — a scratch when the needle breaks through the skin, if at all. dr Soni uses super-fine 32-gauge needles and treats the skin with ice packs prior to injection to ensure a completely pain-free experience. The treatment lasts just ten minutes, with a total of eight injections given, four in each side of the jaw. You should notice the symptoms subside within two to three days, and for those of you who are concerned that this will affect your ability to chew food, don’t. “We have numerous chewing muscles, so your chewing mechanism is not affected at all,” assures Dr. sonie “When you inject Botox, you weaken the muscle and stop its unconscious contraction, which is what causes the jaw pain.”
How long does it take?
The full effects of Botox should be felt within 10 to 14 days of treatment, and you can expect the clenching to last anywhere from three to nine months. “Occasionally, a patient will experience longer-lasting results if they have Botox on a regular basis,” says Dr. sonie “That’s because the muscle weakens over time and therefore takes longer to start contracting again.” He adds that if the muscle is stronger and more overactive, the results could fade sooner than expected. “The quality of the toxin used and the vendor’s technique can also affect how long the results last, since the muscle needs to be very targeted.”
Is it safe?
As with any aesthetic treatment, you should first check the qualifications and experience of your doctor. They should be a registered doctor or nurse (you can verify this by entering their name in the General Medical Council, Nursing & Midwifery Council or General Dental Council registers). People offering Botox and fillers need a license under new government plans to protect patients from botched cosmetic procedures – welcome news for practitioners like Dr. Soni, who is all too familiar with the consequences of bad work. “The risk with this particular procedure is that the wrong muscle could be attacked. So if an injector isn’t familiar with the anatomy of the face, it could hit the funny bone, which could result in temporary drooping on one side.”
How much does it cost?
It varies from doctor to doctor, but Dr. Soni charges £415 for eight injections. He is a highly qualified plastic surgeon with an in-depth knowledge of facial anatomy, so a good benchmark for comparing prices from other doctors.
What are the alternatives?
Because the most likely cause of clenching is stress, it makes sense to focus on your mental health and speak to a GP if you think you need help coping. Regular exercise, meditation, breathing exercises and getting enough sleep go a long way towards self-care.
Gently stretching the jaw muscle also helps relieve symptoms by opening your mouth as wide as possible 10 times once or twice a day.
A gentle facial massage can help release tension in the jaw area after a long day of clenching. Invest in a gua sha tool and use it in “scratching” motions along the jawline to the ear (go gently and use some facial oil to glide).
If you find that your grinding continues at night when you sleep, talk to your dentist about fitting a mouthguard. If you suffer from bruxism, you should see your dentist anyway, as it makes your teeth more susceptible to damage.
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