All the yoga and soothing birdsong sounds in the world aren’t enough to unclench my jaws at night… until.
Having a syringe injected into your jaw muscles isn’t comfortable. I won’t lie. It isn’t so bad, though, when you know that seconds of discomfort results in months of not waking up with a sore neck and jaw from grinding your teeth overnight.
I’ve been a chronic teeth-grinder during my sleep for my whole adult life. My dentist first warned me I was doing it when she noticed I’d worn down my enamel. I also get tension headaches and neck pain. While it’s not one of my symptoms, those who are particularly chronic and aggressive grinders can have really built up, ropy muscles around their jaws – maybe not so bad if you’re a rugby league player, but not hugely appealing to most women.
Anti-wrinkle injections to the masseter muscles, which control the jaws, is the only effective solution I’ve found to teeth grinding at night (“bruxism”) which affects half the Australian population and 30-40 million Americans according to both of our national dental associations. It’s not cheap at around $550 for 50 units of Botox or Dysport. In an ideal world, the fact this treatment is proven effective in preventing further dental erosion, avoiding huge dental costs down the track, mean it should be listed on the Medicare scheme for subsidy. Alas, not yet.
The alternative treatments are wearing a plate, or a mouthguard, cognitive behavioural therapy to alleviate the stress that may be leading to the grinding or medication for sleep and anxiety. None of those has worked for me, and each of them is hugely uncomfortable. Sleeping tablets left me lethargic all the following day and one in particular left me with the taste of metal in my mouth for the following 24 hours.
I tried wearing a plate but it was so uncomfortable I stopped after two nights.
This is how I found myself lying on the treatment table at Results Laser Clinic having anti-wrinkle injections to my jaw. I’m not a stranger to the nurse – my frown lines have been treated for years. This is the second time in a decade I’ve booked in to freeze the jaw muscles that I’m grinding on all night. It’s hard to justify the cost as a freelance writer, and I don’t always grind my teeth to the extent that I have been lately. The post-Christmas, January workload as well as upcoming travel has got me feeling frayed though and all the yoga and soothing birdsong sounds in the world aren’t enough to unclench my jaws at night.
Apparently, the Kardashians do it to narrow their jaw lines. So, if you’re wavering about spending $550 on botox to the jaw, there’s not only the overnight solution to your chronic headaches, neck tension and jaw soreness sorted, but you’re also going to see a slight narrowing of the jaw which makes your cheekbones pop.
Keep in mind that there have been studies that indicate these type of injections may result in bone loss and related problems if done repeatedly, so it’s not a long-term measure. To alleviate jaw pain and tension headaches, it’s a hugely effective temporary solution though.
My face was thoroughly cleansed before the injections and the nurse guided me through what the procedure entailed. I had an existing prescription but if you’re seeing a new nurse or you’ve never had a consultation before, you’ll have to speak to a doctor via Skype to answer questions about your medical history, your understanding of any risks and to pose any questions of your own. When this is all clear, the area to be injected is marked with a pen, syringe loaded, and four injections are administered straight into the masseter muscles, two injections to each side. These are mercifully quick, but the idea that a needle has plunged deep into your face isn’t pleasant regardless. I had no bruising or swelling immediately afterwards nor later on, so there was no need for ice or painkillers.
For more on this, read the scary rise of generation-gap face. Plus, ‘I tried Meghan Markle’s favourite oral massage and dear lord’.
Approximately half the Australian population experiences bruxism, or teeth grinding, though only 1 in 20 are severe cases, which result in migraines. This could well be an underestimate though, since many people grind their teeth at night and experience the symptoms without recognising what’s causing it. Waking up with sore jaw, headache and earache are all typical of involuntary grinding. Usually, your dentist will be able to identify if you’re doing it because it shows in the wearing down of teeth and gums.
The real solution is in lifestyle changes that prevent anxiety and grinding in the first place, but as a temporary measure that has an aesthetic bonus in narrowing the jawline, it’s unbeatable. It’s the only way I get a peaceful night’s sleep and don’t wake up looking (and feeling) like Grumpy Cat.