Dentists get a piece of the Botox pie

  • Article by: AIMÉE TJADER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 2, 2011 - 3:07 PM

Patients can get closer to the fountain of youth at their family dentist.

Dr. Michael Skadron of West River Dental Care injected botox into Pat Grubbe, one of Skadron's dental hygienists.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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They say regular brushing, flossing and professional tooth cleaning can take years off your true age. So can Botox.

Now, the two go hand-in-hand at some Twin Cities dental offices, where at least a few general dentists are tapping into the two fastest-growing cosmetic treatments of the past decade by offering Botox and dermal filler treatments.

"As a dentist, I'm very well-trained in the musculature and anatomy of the face and I feel no other doctor can give an injection better than a qualified and experienced dentist," said Dr. Michael Skadron, who began offering Botox and Juvederm treatments in January at his West River Dental Care in south Minneapolis. "It's a marvelous fit."

The economy has played a role, as well, he said, by bringing in customers who want to gain an edge. "I've had patients who are looking for a new career, so they want their teeth cleaned and their wrinkles removed."

Dentists have been using Botox to treat dental problems like temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved its use for treatment of chronic migraines. Some dentists want to take it a step further and use it for aesthetic purposes, too.

In Minnesota, dentists are permitted to do the work, as long as they adhere to the same standard of care that specialists are required to meet, said Marshall Shragg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Dentistry.

However, some states, including California and Nevada, say the use of Botox to improve patients' smiles or to reduce wrinkles is outside the scope of general dentistry.

Dr. Michael Sudit of the Center for Smile Enhancement in Minnetonka said dentists should've been part of the Botox movement from the beginning. He started using Botox a few years ago to improve patients' "gummy smiles."

Now that other dentists are branching out and realizing they can do it, too, he said, "it's coming and it's coming in a big wave."

The timing of Skadron's new business venture could pay off as people look for ways to improve their looks without going under the knife or spending a fortune. According to Allergan Corp., the company that distributes Botox and Juvederm, 10 percent of dentists perform Botox and dermal filler therapies, yet consumer demand for the treatments is strong.

While cosmetic surgical procedures, like breast augmentation, rose nationwide by 2 percent from 2009 to 2010, minimally invasive cosmetic procedures rose 5 percent -- with Botox injections (5.4 million) leading the way and facial fillers, such as Juvederm, (1.8 million) coming in second, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgery.

"I think there's still a segment of the population that's willing to spend money if it makes them feel good about themselves," Skadron said.

A typical Botox treatment at West River Dental Care ranges from $240 to $720 and dermal fillers cost $500 to $1,000. Results last three to four months.

It's hard to gauge how many dentists in the Twin Cities offer Botox and dermal filler treatments, but at least a half-dozen advertise the services, including O'Brien Dental Care in Shakopee, Four Season Family Dentistry in Plymouth and Minneapolis Dental.

From the patient's chair at West River, brochures and "before" and "after" pictures touting the new services are in clear view. While only a few patients have signed on for the work so far, Skadron expects to get busier with weddings and class reunions coming up.

Eventually, he said, he'd like to see 10 percent of his business come from cosmetic, non-dental procedures. Until the appointment book fills up, Skadron's staffers happily take their place in the patient's chair.

"I'm 52 years old and I started acquiring these wrinkles," hygienist Pat Grubbe said as Skadron injected two syringes of Botox into her forehead.

"Once I had them removed, I don't want them back," she said. "Most people are noticing that I look good, but they can't quite figure out why."

Aimée Tjader • 612-673-1715

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