Surprising as it might sound, Botox is useful in dentistry

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James G. Jenkins

Most people have heard of, or benefited from Botox and Juvederm. These have been historically, and are currently, used to lessen the effects of wrinkles and to give volume lost in the skin due to aging.

Botox works by decreasing the strength of the muscles. A wrinkle is formed when muscles contract and cause a fold, or wrinkle, in the skin.

Botox is highly effective in the proper dosage. It lasts for about four months at first and, with subsequent injections, gradually increases its effect for longer periods of time.

It is the effect Botox has on muscles that makes it useful in dentistry.

Grinding of the teeth can have detrimental effects on the teeth. Some negative results are wear, breakage, cracking, loosening, and shifting of teeth.

This often also can cause muscle soreness, leading to headache. Migraines are often caused by over-activity of the head, neck and shoulder muscles.

When medications and massaging have failed, Botox often works to weaken the resulting stress from the activity of the muscles providing relief from head and jaw pain. This can also lead to minimizing the negative effects on the teeth.

This therapeutic utilization of Botox often overlaps with some aesthetic applications. Secondary to the major muscle groups, treatment is often extended to include the muscles of facial expression, such as the forehead, and those muscles causing contraction above and around the eyebrows.

Other than at the corner of the eyes and around the mouth, these happen to be the most requested areas of treatment when aesthetics is also of concern.

Some specific uses of Botox related to cosmetic dentistry, when injected in the proper areas, can enhance the overall appearance of the smile.

A "gummy" smile can be drastically reduced by weakening the muscles that pull up on the lip. By the same mechanism, treatment of the muscles that pull down the corners of the lips can yield a much more pleasant and approachable smile.

Juvederm and other type fillers also have a specific place in cosmetic dentistry. With age, the gums can recede. Trauma or the effects of gum disease treatment often can lead to "black holes" that are evident at the gumline between teeth.

Most people find this objectionable. A filler can be used to "plump-up" the tissue between the teeth, erasing the black-holes.

Just like a well-manicured, healthy and green lawn sets a house above all the rest, so do the lips which surround the teeth to complete the smile. A luscious set of lips, when combined with gorgeous teeth, sets up a smile to shine above all the rest.

All of the above treatments can be administered by a trained dental professional. As it turns out, it is an extremely good match for dentists since this involves injections. Most dentists have perfected the technique that is repeatedly used every day for dentistry.

Another convenience for patients is that the Botox effect lasts roughly about the same interval as re-care hygiene visits. If under treatment with any of these agents, a trip to get the teeth cleaned can be arranged for any follow-ups as well, thus reducing the number of trips for total care.

James G. Jenkins, D.M.D. is the owner of Bluffton Dental Care in Bluffton.

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