Study: Botox can ease chronic teeth grinding

May 7, 2012 4:55:37 PM PDT
More than one-tenth of all Americans grind their teeth while they're sleeping. That makes for good business for dentists, but those expensive dental mouth guards don't cut it. But now there's a Houston study where they tested Botox for teeth grinding.

Elizabeth Dragan is getting Botox, not for wrinkles, but to stop her teeth grinding. Sometimes, she grinds her teeth so loudly, it wakes up her husband.

"I've cracked fillings from grinding my teeth," Dragan said.

A mouth guard helped but didn't stop the pain.

"It doesn't stop you from grinding so the muscles are still activated so you're still getting pain in the jaw and headaches," she said.

So she tried Botox shots in a UTHealth study tested Botox. She received a dozen shots on the side of her face to relax the muscles that move the jaw.

"It seemed to be pretty robustly effective in the small study that we did," said Dr. William Ondo, a professor of neurology at UTHealth.

They helped, and her headaches and jaw pain went away. After the study ended, she decided to continue the treatment.

"There was a huge difference," Dragan said.

She had one side effect, temporary weakness in her jaw, so they reduced the dose.

It's the same Botox you've heard of for wrinkles, only double the strength. It's one of 250 published uses for Botox, including brain injury, Tourette's, cerebral palsy and a new one, male pattern baldness.

The UT study was one of the first to use Botox for teeth grinding.

"One of the big practical issues is simply insurance coverage for botulinum toxin because the drug only works about 4 months and it gradually wears off, although it can be repeated again," Dr. Ondo said.

Without insurance, the treatment costs about $1,500. Dragan's insurance covers it. She says she's happier and so is her husband.

"His sleep improved as well as mine when I had the Botox," Dragan said.

Dr. Ondo says this is likely the first of many more studies on Botox for teeth grinding. But if you're miserable, you don't have to wait for more studies, you can try it now.


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