What is Botox (also known as BTXA)?
Botox is a brand name for a compound known by the (somewhat frightening name) of ‘Botulism Toxin-A’ (BTXA).
There are a number of other different ‘brands’ of BTXA including ‘Dysport’ and ‘Xeomin’.
There are subtle differences in the chemical composition between the different ‘brands’ of BTXA, but they are largely very similar in the way that they work and how they are used.
It’s important to understand that ‘Botox’ is just a brand of botulism toxin, in the same way that ‘Hoover’ is just one brands of vacuum cleaner. Sometimes the term ‘Botox’ is incorrectly used as an umbrella term for all types of botulism toxin, in the same way that ‘Hoovering’ is often used as an umbrella term for ‘Vacuuming’.
What is BTXA made of?
BTXA is a purified protein derived from the Clostridium botulinum bacteria which has a unique effect on the human body. It temporarily inhibits some types of muscle activity, and can be used therapeutically for a number of purposes, including relaxing overactive jaw muscles, treating migraines, reducing excessive sweating, correcting facial asymmetries (such as lop-sided smiles and cross-eyes) and… of course… relaxing the muscles that cause facial wrinkles.
What is it used for?
In dentistry, BTXA is commonly used to assist patients with overactive jaw muscles that can cause destructive tooth clenching/ grinding (known as ‘Bruxism’) and/or disorders with the temporomandibular jaw joint, often known as ‘TMD’.
Bruxism is a term that refers to destructive tooth clenching and/or grinding that can cause all manner of dental problems including cracked teeth, early failure of dental restorations, enamel loss, tooth sensitivity and premature tooth loss.
Temporomandibular joint disorder can present in many different ways, and is often associate with bruxism. Patients suffering from TMD typically have overactive jaw muscles that place destructive pressures on the jaw joints, which can lead to joint clicking, dislocation, pain or tenderness in the affected area, earaches, headaches, migraines and general facial pain.
BTXA can assist in treating these conditions by relaxing the overactive muscles that are responsible for causing the symptoms. Typically BTXA is applied through the skin (outside the mouth) around the temples and the back of the lower jaw (the temporalis and masseter muscles).
Once applied the BTXA stops the muscles from being able to produce the destructive forces leading to bruxism and TMD. Normal function- (such as eating, talking, swallowing and smiling etc) are not affected.
Can it be used to fix my wrinkles?
Yes it can, and where appropriate it may be used to smooth wrinkles in forehead, frown lines, crow’s feet and other areas.
What else can it be used for?
BTXA can be used to treat ‘gummy smiles’ caused by overactive upper lip muscles. BTXA can also be used to smooth out some facial asymmetries (for instance- a lop-sided smile caused by overactive muscles on one side of the face).
Does it Hurt?
Generally no. There can be some minor discomfort during the injection itself, and some mild tenderness at some sites for a day or two afterwards, but this is generally negligible and has been compared to ‘plucking eyebrows’ or ‘squeezing a pimple’.
Are there any side-effects?
Generally no, assuming post-op instructions are followed correctly. Some patients may experience a small bruise at the injection site.
Is it safe?
Yes. It has been it use as early at the 1960’s and 1970’s for therapeutic purposes such as correcting cross-eyes (a condition known as ‘strabismus’) caused by over-active muscles responsible for establishing the eye position.
Cosmetically it’s been in use since the mid 1980’s, after it was discovered that patients receiving treatment for eye-conditions reported an (unexpected) improvement in ‘crows feet’ and ‘frown lines’.
Research then began into the use of BTXA for these and other cosmetic and therapeutic purposes, leading to its widespread use today.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t have BTXA?
BTXA is not recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers and for those suffering from neuro-muscular and some autoimmune conditions. BTXA is not recommended for those taking certain medications or with a known sensitivity to BTXA. Your health-care provider will be able to advise if you are not suitable.
Is there any post-op care required?
Generally patients can resume their normal activity immediately after BTXA treatment. Depending on the area treated, we advise against unnecessarily touching or rubbing of injection sites the day of treatment.
How long does it take to work?
Typically effects are noticed within 2 days, with peak-effect around 10-14 days after treatment.
How long does it last?
Results vary, but typically results may last from 3-6 months and sometimes up to 12 months, depending on which areas are being treated and how much BTXA is applied.
How much does it cost?
Because each person case is unique it can be difficult to give a straight answer to this question, but generally speaking anti-grinding treatments can range from $400-$700 depending on the severity of the grinding to be treated. Cosmetic treatments vary widely depending on the areas that need to be treated.
Can I claim BTXA on my private health insurance?
Some funds will allow claims for therapeutic purposes (such as anti-grinding treatments) if your policy includes pharmacy cover. However, typically funds will not cover cosmetic treatments.
It’s best to check with your specific insurer what your policy covers.