I’ll get straight to the point. I had botox to the masseter muscle to treat a teeth-grinding habit that was causing intense migraines (we’re talking leaky nostrils, watering eyes and a misaligned jaw). In under 24 hours, all pain was gone. After posting the videos of the injections on my Instagram, I had an influx of messages where individuals complained they had ground their molars down to flat planes, others had semi-permanent asymmetric jawlines and all of us were in deep pain. I was most surprised that a common ailment such as this, is often ignored and left untreated. The good news is that there is a very quick and relatively simple solution to the discomfort. While the root cause is predominantly stress, we can’t control how our bodies react. Although the first step to keeping the symptoms of TMJ at bay is a mouth guard (which I snapped in half), the next option escalates to muscle relaxation via botox. Here’s what you need to know about botox treatment for bruxism and its almost instantaneous effect.
It’s a pacifying thought that in spite of claims that pressure for physical perfection is only on the rise, people are still deterred by the notion of botox. It’s often misconceived as ‘poison’. While it is a type of toxin, you can erase those images of death pulsating through your bloodstream and all those horror stories. The botox treatment for TMJ serves to paralyse the muscle and needles are the delivery system. It may also ease your mind to know that topical numbing cream is all that’s required. Yes, even for someone like me, who wept while my brows were micro-bladed. It’s worth noting that injections to the masseter is far more comfortable than say the forehead, because it’s not towards the centre of your face.
The results are twofold: One is symptom relief, which is reassessed in six weeks and requires maintenance of every six months. The second, the atrophy of the muscle consequently slims the face. The contouring effect pulls the visage into that desirable V-shape. However, multiple sessions with far more units (I had 20 in each side) are needed to achieve that aesthetic benefit.
Dr Rupert of Viva Skin Clinics tells us, “It’s the strongest muscle in the body, out of everything it’s the most overused muscle, so it could do with a little bit of relaxing”. So don’t fear, you won’t have your lunch dribbling out of the side of your mouth. As for me, I felt numbness straight after the injections. However, within 24 hours, all pain was most definitively gone. In the three days that followed, I could tell when my jaw was clenching but had none of the side effects – truly the strangest sensation as it often tenses subconsciously. Dr Rupert, who delivered the botox treatment, advised that maximum results would kick in in two weeks. The idea is that the affected muscle will shrink over time as it’s not exercised.
It wasn’t just excruciating aches that had pushed me to the next step and straight into the arms of botox, but the possibility that teeth-grinding could distort my face in the long run. When I extended my jaw during the consultation with Dr Rupert, he noticed that one side popped out further than the other. My cheeks already felt like a hard pebble was embedded within them but I hadn’t realised it was visible. “It’s very common to have asymmetry and it’s because most people bite harder on one side, that not only influences the size of the masseter and how the face ages over time”, he says. Interestingly, here’s where ethnicity plays a part. Dr Rupert notes that many people of Asian descent have a square-shaped jaw and therefore, naturally strong masseters, which means ageing appears to be slower than in Caucasians. Skincare experts will say collagen and genetics, which are other factors, but this surgical point of view provides fascinating depth.
“If you think about the scaffold of your face, the cheeks and jaw muscle hold everything back. It means everything is a bit tighter. [Although] everyone has asymmetry”. Although, if you suffer from TMJ, you’ll probably know which side affects you day to day. If not, look in the mirror and raise your eyebrows. The dominant side will lift higher. There’s a devastatingly fun party trick I bet you never knew you had.