As the therapist slid her latex-gloved thumbs under my top lip, a thought kept playing over in my mind: “It’s just so bizarre to think that someone’s had their hands in Meghan Markle’s mouth like this.” I was at Sense of Touch, the only spa in Hong Kong to offer Buccal massage. Beloved by the likes of J-Lo and the aforementioned Meghan, Buccal massage is a facial massage technique where the therapist actually goes INSIDE your mouth with her fingers.
This is how it works: after your usual facial steps of cleansing, toning and face mask, the therapist uses her fingers to massage inside your mouth, pressing down on tension spots and pinching your cheeks between thumb (on the inside) and fingers (on the outside) to release tension, reduce water retention and puffiness, boost collagen production, improve blood circulation, and tone the face and jaw. The Buccal massage itself takes around 20 minutes, during which the treatment gets quite intimate, with your therapist probing where no finger (not even your own, I’m willing to bet) has gone before. Rama, our therapist, went right up behind our lips to the edge of gums to manipulate fascia, right down to the back of our jaw to release long-held tension, and everywhere in between.
Bewildered but intrigued after the treatment, I wanted to learn more. I got in touch with UP!Health, a Central-based chiropractic clinic that also offers in-mouth treatments as part of their approach to craniosacral therapy. While their approach is more therapeutically driven, there are definite parallels between the two.
“While most people come to us for issues related to jaw pain, tension, headaches or clicking, a number of patients do approach us for cosmetic
reasons,” says chiropractor Dr. Gillian Tsang. “Some people notice an asymmetry, such as one cheekbone being higher than the other, or a lopsided smile, and come to us to correct it.” It usually takes five or six treatments for patients to notice a difference.
One thing that the Buccal massage and chiropractor both treat effectively is tension. “We don’t really understand why, but stress and poor sleep all has an effect on the temporomanidubular joint, or TMJ,” says Tsang. Paying attention to and treating this often-neglected area with massage can do wonders for relaxation and tension release, leading to fewer headaches, less grinding, and in turn, a more refreshed appearance.
For me, my mouth felt pleasantly roomy, smiley and relaxed after both treatments, with a noticeable reduction in tension that I didn’t even know I was carrying. So if you’re feeling tense and able to get over the inherent weirdness of having someone’s fingers caressing your gums, perhaps it’s time to consider going hand to mouth.