Young woman holding her jaw because of pain caused by teeth grinding, Bruxism or TMJ.

Botox: A New Treatment for Bruxism, TMJ and Gummy Smiles

Botox: A New Treatment for Bruxism, TMJ and Gummy Smiles

The injectable has been used for cosmetic procedures for nearly 20 years now. Recently, Botox® has been introduced to dental practices. It can be a successful way to treat issues like Bruxism, teeth clenching and grinding, TMJ and gummy smiles.

Botulinum toxin, also known as Botox®, is a neurotoxic protein produced by bacteria. Scientists have found a way to make this protein into a therapeutic injectable used in the health care field. The neurotoxin is collected and purified in a laboratory to make it safe for medical use.

Innovative Uses of Botox in Dentistry

Botox® has a quick and noticeable effect for a number of cosmetic and clinical issues. When it is injected into a muscle, Botox® attaches to nerve endings. In the course of a few days, the neurotoxin blocks the transmission of nerve signals to the muscle. It specifically targets motor neurons without inhibiting the sensory neurons. Essentially, Botox® works to relax the muscle without blocking any feeling or senses. The effect isn’t permanent, but it lasts for about three to four months.

Now, dentists are finding that Botox® can be helpful in treating some painful and irritating issues. Dental practitioners who complete specialized training can administer Botox®. As part of comprehensive oral health care, it can be used to treat Bruxism, TMJ and gummy smiles, just to name a few.


A recent article from the Journal of International Oral Health established that Botox® can be used to successfully treat parafunctional clenching and the headaches that it often causes. One more commonly known form of this is Bruxism. Symptoms of this condition usually include involuntary teeth grinding and clenching, typically while asleep. The condition is often blamed on or worsens with increased levels of stress.

Bruxism can destroy a healthy smile over time. At night, people with this condition may clench or grind their teeth with more than 100 times as much force as that used for normal chewing. This extreme pressure often leads to damage and wear to the enamel of the teeth and crowns. If left untreated, teeth can chip and become sensitive, or it can change the alignment of teeth. Bruxism is also associated with extra tension in the jaw and facial muscles and can contribute to severe or chronic headaches. Some patients experience stiffness in the neck and shoulders, earaches and a click sound in the jaw.

Botox® can be used to relax the hyperactive muscles in the jaw. Specifically, small doses of the neurotoxin are used to target the temporal and masseter muscles. Botox® works to block the transmission of nerve signals which had been causing the muscles to contract excessively. Most people struggling with this condition experience significant relief from the tension and related discomfort of Bruxism. It helps ease and decrease symptoms such as teeth grinding.

The treatment is effective for many, but it is temporary. The relaxing effect of the Botox® tends to wear off within three to four months. At this point, they must make an appointment to have their dentist treat the area with another round of injections. Within a year, patients generally see great improvement in the intensity and frequency of jaw clenching and teeth grinding.


Temporo-mandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, is associated with jaw tension and pain. TMJ occurs when the jaw is misaligned and can sometimes be caused by Bruxism. People dealing with this condition have sharp pain in the same joint that is responsible for chewing and talking. They often experience headaches, teeth grinding and lockjaw as well.

Botox® is now being used by medical and dental professionals to treat TMJ. When it is injected into the jaw muscles, Botox® helps relax the area. The treatment can effectively relieve the related tension headaches, teeth grinding and jaw discomfort. The non-surgical procedure is quick – just 20 to 30 minutes – and relatively pain-free. Sometimes mild, temporary bruising or redness occurs at the injection site. Most patients feel significant relief within the first day or two after getting injections.

Gummy Smile

A beautiful smile depends a lot on proportions. Some patients are bothered by an excessive amount of gum tissue which is visible when they smile. This is a cosmetic issue known as a ‘gummy smile.’ Periodontists can remove some of the excess gingival tissue with a procedure known as laser gum contouring.

Sometimes a gummy smile is the result of a short upper lip which retracts too high when stretched in a smile. Recently, dentists have been improving this type of issue by injecting Botox® into the upper lip. The neurotoxin allows the upper lip muscle to relax and cover more gum tissue, even when the person smiles. This non-surgical approach takes about 30 minutes to complete. Patients notice a difference within 72 hours and the effect of the Botox® lasts four to six months. For a more dramatic smile makeover, injections can be combined with the laser gum contouring procedure.

Always on the Cutting Edge of Dentistry

Dr. Briglia’s team offers a wide range of innovative and proven dental solutions. Call our office to request an individual consultation: (610) 692-4440.

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Briglia Dental Group
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