Botox at Your Dentist?
Nearly a year ago, StyleBlueprint’s Director of Marketing, Megan Casey, was attending an event hosted at the Koch Aesthetic Dentistry space. Over casual conversation, Dr. Koch and his team’s warmth and kindness made Megan feel comfortable discussing an issue she’s been dealing with for quite a while: chronic jaw pain.
“I started experiencing occasional popping in my jaw all the way back in high school, typically while I chewed my food. My mom had the same issue, though, so I didn’t think much of it,” Megan shares. “Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve also developed the habit of clenching my teeth when I’m stressed, which frequently made my jaw feel sore. I knew it had gotten worse last year when my jaw would hurt while eating salads or sandwiches.”
In addition to the pain, the shape of Megan’s face had slowly transformed over time, taking on a more square shape around her jawline. So, after listening to Megan’s symptoms and assessing her jawline, Dr. Koch suggested an unusual but effective treatment option: Botox™.
“TMJ is actually an abbreviation for the jaw joint itself: TemporoMandibular Joint. The lower jaw is a two-part hinge that fits into the upper jaw compartments (part of the skull) to open and close the mouth. These hinges are controlled by several sets of muscles that bring the lower teeth up to the upper teeth,” explains Dr. Koch. “In a healthy state, these muscles are only active during chewing and swallowing. When people are clenching their jaws or grinding their teeth (during the day or at night), these muscles are active much more than that, and they will get stronger and larger, and they are capable of exerting much more force on the joint, the teeth, and the skull.”
Keeping that in mind, it makes sense, then, that Botox™ could be an effective treatment. “It works on the nerve endings to affect the release of the neurotransmitter the causes the muscles to contract,” says Dr. Koch. “The nerve generates a new nerve ending, which functions normally, and the muscle contraction goes back to normal, a process that takes about three months.”
Intrigued, Megan immediately made an appointment for the following morning to get started on this treatment plan. The first of three treatments begins with several photos showcasing the “before” look of the jaw. “I was a little anxious at the thought of changing the shape of my face dramatically, but the potential benefits of being pain-free and preventing future dental procedures caused by clenching outweighed the cosmetic concern,” says Megan.
After the initial photos are taken, Botox™ is injected into the masseter muscles and hairline above the ear. The amount of botox varies depending on the patient, but Megan was given four injections on each side. Although the injections are not necessarily enjoyable, Megan notes that the pain was minimal, and aside from a few tiny bruises along her jawline that disappeared within a day or two, there were virtually no side effects.
Megan, seated, consults with Dr. Koch prior to her treatment.
While initially, Megan did not notice much, if any, difference in the shape of her face, an effect Dr. Koch noted before treatment, she did realize a significant decrease in popping and felt relatively pain-free. In fact, by the time Megan went in for her second treatment, she could feel the Botox™ wearing off, and her jaw pain began to return, though not nearly as bad as before she started the treatment regimen.
At the second treatment appointment, Dr. Koch noticed a minimal difference in the size of each of Megan’s masseter muscles, so he opted to inject slightly more Botox™. Four weeks later, Megan was completely pain-free and had stopped clenching her jaw as frequently. It was at this point that she noticed a slimming in her jawline, as well.
The photo on the left shows Megan before any treatments, and the photo on the right shows Megan eight weeks after her first treatment. You can clearly notice the decreased size of her jawline.
“By the time the third appointment rolled around, I was in awe over the shape of my face,” says Megan, explaining that she still feels like herself and the change is not that dramatic that friends and family take a notice, but the before and after images offer stunning perspective of the impact the treatment made. “I trusted Dr. Koch and his team. It made sense to me that a dentist would be the best person to give Botox™ for this particular treatment as there is an underlying medical issue, not just a cosmetic concern,” Megan shares.
Because Dr. Koch is an expert in every facial bone and muscle, Megan felt comfortable and taken care of, and she appreciated that nothing was sugarcoated in regards to cost or time it would take to achieve the desired results. “Plus, have you seen their office? It feels much more like a spa than a dentist’s office,” she says. “I liked to arrive early to chat with Rebekah at the front desk and to enjoy a little rest in the waiting room.”
You can visibly see the transformation in jaw size and shape from before treatments began (left) to two weeks after Megan’s third and final treatment (right).
“I love that this treatment had two successful outcomes — less pain and a slimmer jawline. I had no idea Botox™ could handle this issue, but I’m sure glad it does,” she concludes. To maintain its effectiveness, Megan will receive approximately 10 injections every 2-3 months to keep the masseter muscles from getting too strong again.
“Botox™ is entirely reversible because it will always wear off as the body makes new nerve endings,” Dr. Koch adds. “Over the years, there have been other treatments that are not reversible which have been used to treat TMJ problems, such as grinding down the teeth, surgery, various types of splints, orthodontics, and drug therapies. Sometimes these can be effective and indicated, but when they are not, they involve a great deal of time and cost, and may not even offer relief. It is therefore very important to consult with someone/a team that fully understands the problem and comes up with a diagnosis and a plan that makes sense to you before proceeding with any treatment.”