Dentists campaign for right to use Botox cosmetically

11 December, 2014

The dentist's chair has always been about teeth whitening, receiving a filling, and – of course – the dreaded wisdom teeth extraction. So how would you feel about getting your crow's feet or laughter lines erased while you're down there?

The ridding of deep lines around the face using Botox and dermal filler is traditionally done at a cosmetic surgery clinic by a qualified surgeon, however an increasing number of dentists are offering the service as well.

According to CEO of the Australian Dental Association (WA) Dr David Hallett, for many dentists it's considered to be a well-rounded approach to the profession because, having spent countless hours working within the confines of their patients' mouths, it's only a given that they'd have an intimate knowledge of facial anatomy.

"Their education and training [is] in anatomy, specifically in the muscles, the nerves, the vascular system and the physiology of the face," Dr Hallett said.

"But also too of course, dentists inject in the face all day, every day as part of their practising life, it's just that they inject from inside the mouth rather than outside the mouth."

He said a burgeoning number of ADA members have expressed an interest in using Botox beyond therapeutic purposes, commonly in the treatment of facial pain.

"A number of dentists have contacted us wanting to know why, in the past anyway, we haven't supported some deregulation of the use of Botox in dentistry," he said.

"Up until now, dentists have been able to use Botox but purely for therapeutic purposes where they've been able to treat jaw joint pain … but they've not been authorised to use it for what we would call 'cosmetic purposes'."

Risks involved

Dr Paul Meara, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, said the insertion of Botox into a patient's face was a highly critical procedure with concurrent risks involved – including facial paralysis –  if not done correctly.

"There are some risks with Botox if you inject it in the wrong place: the person can have loss of muscles to the eyelid so they can't see out of an eye; they can have asymmetry in their face; they might over-paralyse one muscle compared to another so they look like a stroke victim," he said.

"If you have somebody like a dentist doing it just occasionally after doing the course, then their level of experience and their ability to get good results for the patient is a lot less, and it's likely to always be a lot less unless they specifically restrict their practice to cosmetics."