BOTOX- Beyond the Cosmetic

Botox has, over time, become the treatment of choice; and the range of conditions for which Doctors all over are using Botox, might surprise you.

Considering the kind of lives we are living on a daily basis, the list of conditions is a long one: excessive sweating, neck spasms, twitchy eyes, leaky/overactive bladders, migraines, cold hands, premature ejaculations, even depression are all being addressed by the use of Botox which shows this drug’s unique characteristics and varied applications.

One primary affliction that has has become very common in all this is ‘teeth grinding’ medically known as Bruxism and referred to as a ‘sub-conscious ailment’.

Recent studies from the NHS state that almost 6 million in the UK are affected by teeth grinding and this number is on the rise.

What has given rise to Bruxism?

The key factor is stress that seems to initially trigger off the teeth grinding. The jaw muscles in the human body are one of the strongest muscles and are very quick to react to any kind of mental/emotional stress by immediately tightening. Call it a psychological form of protection.

The times we live in; the economic instability, the global political tensions, the ups and downs of relationships, financial/career insecurity, cyber-bullying, self-image/body shaming issues, pressures from bosses/colleagues/partners/family, becoming parents, going through a divorce, the inability to cope with school and exams, smartphone addictions are all grounds for conditions such as Bruxism, which has also been known to give rise to sleep disorders.

It often takes a while to realise that one is afflicted by this condition.  Over a prolonged period you can actually notice changes in the shape of your jawline/facial contour. The grinding of our teeth can exert a pressure that is 120% of the force required whilst eating, which can obviously cause significant damage and also make the jaw look bigger, creating that square jawed look. People in stressful professions with a high degree of physical activity and a threat to the physical body are also commonly afflicted by this condition, for example race car drivers, who often have a square jawed look due to the teeth clenching when experiencing major G forces at high speeds. There have been cases where patients have come in having actually lost teeth from grinding along with internal signs of canines flattening out; chipped/fractured teeth can be markers for Bruxism.

Teeth grinding also goes beyond teeth damage and doctors are now diagnosing more patients who come in complaining of headaches and facial pain known as Temporomandibular Joint disorder (TMD).

There are various ways to address all this, such as mouth guards worn at night. There is also the option of Botulinum Toxin injections, commonly known as Botox. These injections are administered into the ‘masseter muscles’ to relax them and reduce the force with which one bites down, and also sometimes injected into the ‘temporalis’, a fan shaped muscle that runs from the outer forehead to behind the ear.

We’ve talked about the treatments and cures for this condition, but let’s also look at how it can be prevented in the first place.  

How we deal with stress is a crucial factor when looking at symptoms and illnesses.  We can also look at our lifestyles choices around food – especially caffeine, sugar and alcohol – as well as exercise.  We might even consider meditation, relaxation techniques, winding down properly before we go to sleep, maybe even therapy.  We all know about the mind-body connection which is no longer just a concept. In fact it’s made it’s way very much into the mainstream now, it’s actually become cool.  And far from being a fad, we predict it’s here to stay.  Conscious presence is about staying in the here and now and observing life rather than absorbing it, as challenging as this can be at times!  This can be achieved by a level of consistency and practise with one’s turnaround towards wellness being more a way of life rather than just a prevention or a quick fix solution.

From a practical level one can initially start by using a dental splint or a night guard apart from an early diagnosis but anyone with severe ongoing anxiety must consult a mental health professional for a more indepth treatment.

Alongside dealing with the root cause, Botox is the most viable treatment to immediately arrest the condition, preventing damage to teeth and pain/headaches etc.

There are a few new studies that state this treatment could perhaps cause a decrease in bone density in the jaw over time thereby increasing the risk of jaw fracture. However this has yet to be fully proven and considered a widely accepted fact.

We are looking at people across all kinds of demographics and ages who are affected by Bruxism. Everyone has a degree of stress in one way or another.

Ultimately it’s not just about ‘gritting your teeth and getting on with it’ as we have all been conditioned in our modern societies, there is actually another way, as we have explored in this blog.  

-Dr Ash Dutta