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Many people experience teeth grinding or jaw clenching, also known as bruxism. While many treatments for bruxism exist, a newer option you may not have heard of involves botulinum toxin (more commonly known as Botox).
Botox injections target the masseter muscles of the jaw to treat bruxism, causing them to relax and stop clenching. This effect isn’t permanent, but it can provide relief for several months. The procedure will then need to be repeated on a regular schedule.
Bruxism is an involuntary and generally unconscious behavior. Stress and anxiety, age, genetic factors, and certain drugs can all cause bruxism.
Treatment isn’t always needed for bruxism, but in more severe cases, it can lead to (or be related to):
If you’ve experienced these symptoms, you may have already sought treatment for your bruxism. If these treatments haven’t helped, Botox injections may be an option worth considering.
Botulinum toxin is produced by a species of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. It paralyzes muscles by blocking the release of a chemical called acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter. Your nerves use it to send signals to your muscles. By blocking this chemical from being released, Botox stops the signal from being sent. This leaves the muscle paralyzed.
Eating food contaminated with Clostridium botulinum can lead to botulism, a form of food poisoning that can be fatal. But in small, carefully administered injections, the toxin only causes partial paralysis of specific muscles. This means it can be used as a medical treatment.
Botox injections are best known as a cosmetic treatment to reduce and prevent the formation of wrinkles. By relaxing certain facial muscles, they can make the skin appear smoother.
Another common use for Botox treatment is to reduce or prevent muscle spasms, similar to what it does for bruxism. The Botox injection goes into the masseter muscle, the large muscle that moves the jaw. With this muscle relaxed, the involuntary clenching and grinding should go away.
This, in turn, should alleviate any feeling of jaw tension or soreness, as well as any tooth wear you may have been experiencing. Although your masseter muscle is partially paralyzed, you shouldn’t lose your ability to chew, eat, or talk.
People who get Botox for bruxism may need four or so units on each side of their jaw. Within two weeks of getting the injection, their symptoms will resolve, and this relief should last about 6 months.
Because Botox will eventually wear off, using it to treat teeth grinding and jaw clenching will require regular visits. There isn’t very much research yet on the long-term implications of this.
Not everyone is a good candidate for treatment with Botox. Medical reasons not to get Botox include:
Talk to your doctor or dentist about whether Botox injections for bruxism suit you.
Botox is generally considered a safe and effective treatment when administered properly, but side effects can occur.
Some more common side effects of Botox injections for bruxism include:
In some cases, the injected toxin can affect muscles it wasn’t intended to, or spread to other parts of the body. This can lead to temporary muscle weakness or paralysis. It can also cause more serious side effects, including cardiac or respiratory arrest.
These side effects are rare, but it’s important to note that Botox for jaw clenching is an off-label use. This means that the FDA hasn’t yet approved Botox for this purpose. There also isn’t enough research to know what the effects of repeated Botox injections for bruxism might be.
If Botox injections aren’t for you, there are other ways to treat bruxism. Here are some alternatives:
Mouth guards can be used to treat sleep bruxism. For example, you can wear a night guard to prevent any damage to your teeth if you tend to grind them while you’re asleep. This can help relieve any jaw pain you may feel upon waking.
Note that mouth guards can relieve the symptoms of bruxism but may not address the underlying cause. Other treatments may be needed for a more long-term solution.
Biofeedback alerts you about the activity of part of your body to help you correct it. It’s been used to help with incontinence, stroke recovery, and mobility in older people.
To treat bruxism, an electronic instrument measures your mouth and jaw muscle activity and signals you when there’s too much.
By making you aware of your jaw-clenching behavior, it can help you reduce it over time. It’s best for daytime bruxism since you’ll be awake and able to respond when alerted.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your jaw to the rest of your head, enabling you to chew, talk, and yawn. You have one on each side of your jaw.
Some people experience chronic issues with this joint, known as TMJ disorders (TMJDs). These can cause face, jaw, or neck pain, limited jaw movement, clicking or popping in your jaw, and other jaw complications.
TMJ treatment can be beneficial to those who have bruxism related to one or both temporomandibular joints. This treatment can include Botox, also as an off-label treatment. Other TMJ treatments include:
Bruxism is a habit of jaw clenching or teeth grinding that can have various underlying causes. For people who have already tried other treatments, Botox injections may be another option.
Botox treatment works by partially paralyzing the masseter muscles of the jaw. This causes the clenching to stop for several months, which can provide significant relief. After that time, another round of treatment may be needed.
While this use of Botox is considered to be generally safe, it does come with possible side effects. If you’re interested in this treatment, look for an experienced and reputable doctor who can tell you if you’re a candidate.
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