Using botulinum toxin injections to save teeth
Botulinum toxin helps undergrad with jaw aches, headaches from grinding teeth
While most people get botulinum toxin injections to reduce frown lines and crow's feet, some use the aesthetic treatment to save their teeth.
When Mr Sean Ho discovered he had sleep bruxism in June - a condition where he involuntarily grinds his teeth while asleep - he was told by his dentist to do something about it.
The 22-year-old undergraduate told The New Paper: "Sometimes, I would wake up with a headache or jaw ache, which certainly did not help when I was mugging for university exams."
It also led to overdeveloped jaw muscles, where the muscular development was greater on one side of his jaw, causing his features to become asymmetrical.
With his molars worn out, he was eventually advised to get botulinum toxin injections.
Dr Shiau Ee Leng, the medical director of ClearSK Healthcare who treated Mr Ho, told TNP: "I have known Sean for a few years and had already noticed his widening jawline due to the thickened jaw muscles. I immediately thought of botulinum toxin injections as the efficacy and safety of botulinum toxin A for the treatment of bruxism has been long established with many scientific papers published on the subject matter."
Dr Shiau said that by injecting small doses of botulinum toxin directly into the masseter muscle - the large muscle that moves the jaw - it is weakened, and reduces or stops the involuntary grinding of teeth and clenching of jaw.
This then relaxes the muscle and reduces the wear and tear of the teeth from grinding.
Other symptoms of bruxism such as temporomandibular joint syndrome, headaches and facial pain should also be reduced or eliminated.
Voluntary movements such as chewing, speaking and swallowing are not affected by the neurotoxin.
Dr Shiau said: "Cases of bruxism are getting more common, this could be linked to the fast-paced and high-stress lifestyle in a modern city like Singapore.
"Sean is a college student in a good American university where he has to compete with the best students, so I can imagine his stress level in school."
Botulinum toxin has also been used for treating a variety of conditions such as strabismus (crossed eyes), uncontrolled blinking, muscle stiffness and spasms, migraines, movement disorders such as cervical dystonia (which causes neck muscles to contract involuntarily) and overactive sweating in areas such as the palms and underarms.
Most bruxism patients feel some relief after the first injection and how often they go for it depends on the severity of the condition.
Mr Ho, who could see the effects two days after the treatment, said he does not need to undergo another session unless he is gnashing his teeth again.
He said: "Having a botulinum toxin injection sounded scary at first and I didn't know what to expect, but Dr Shiau reassured me that it was minimally invasive, simple and quick."