Are you suffering from jaw pain? Does your jaw make popping or clicking sounds when you open it? Do you have regular headaches or migraines that aren’t responding to the treatments your doctor recommends? Perhaps the true cause of your symptoms is temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). In TMJ, a dysfunction in your jaw joint can cause muscle strain, pinched nerves, and other effects that cause numerous symptoms throughout the body. Although your doctor may have difficulty recognizing and treating TMJ, you may be delighted at the results a neuromuscular dentist can give.
What Is TMJ?
TMJ is when your jaw joint isn’t working properly due to many different causes. Although this sounds like a simple problem, its effects can be complicated and far-reaching.
Your jaw joint exists at a major crossroads of your body. It’s directly involved in eating, drinking, speaking, and breathing. Indirectly, the muscles that control your jaw partner with the muscles that keep your neck in alignment to support you head and those that are on your scalp and face. In addition, your ear is very near your jaw joint, and major nerves and blood vessels run by your jaw joint.
As a result, a problem with your jaw joint can result in many different symptoms.
TMJ symptoms can be local or they can be spread throughout your body. Some TMJ symptoms include:
- Jaw pain
- Jaw sounds: clicking, popping, or grinding
- Sore teeth
- Worn, chipped, or cracked teeth
- Pain in the face, or behind the eye
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Vertigo, dizziness, or balance problems
- Neck pain
- Upper back pain
- Tingling or numbness in the fingers
Once you have been diagnosed with TMJ, treatment emphasizes giving rapid relief to your symptoms. As part of your diagnosis, you will usually be given treatment with TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation), a kind of electric massage. This relaxes your muscles, and many people experience immediate relief. For some people, periodic TENS treatments may be enough to keep your symptoms under control.
Other people may need a more long-term solution. The next step in TMJ treatment is the use of an oral splint. This is similar to a sports mouthguard or sleep apnea oral appliance. You put it in before you go to sleep and it will hold your jaw in a more comfortable, relaxed position. For many people, this gives their muscles enough rest to eliminate symptoms.
If your symptoms persist, we may recommend bite reconstruction, in which we use dental crowns to build up your teeth so that they are able to hold your jaw in a relaxed position essentially 24 hours a day.
Sometimes, though, your jaw joint may show significant signs of damage, and you may be referred to a joint specialist for treatment.
Advanced Training as a TMJ Dentist
Dr. Becky Coats is among the best trained TMJ dentists in the Dallas area. She received her dental degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center Dental School. Then she took an advanced general dentistry residency at the University of Texas Dental Branch in Houston. Then she pursued further education at the leading institution for TMJ dentists in the world: the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. Here she learned the neuromuscular dentistry approach to the treatment of TMJ.
Dr. Coats is also a TMJ dentist who recognizes the link between TMJ and sleep apnea, and has received extensive training in sleep apnea treatment. Overall, she has acquired more than 1000 hours of continuing education since receiving her dental degree.
In recognition of her extensive training, Dr. Coats was awarded a Mastership by the Academy of General Dentistry in 2008. Dr. Coats is the youngest female recipient of the MAGD, laying an excellent foundation for her work as a TMJ dentist.
- LVI Fellow, Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies
- Mastership Award in Academy of General Dentistry, Member
- Fellowship Award in the Academy of General Dentistry
- Fellowship Award in the International Dental Implant Association (FIDIA)
- Chief Resident, Advanced Education General Dentistry Residency
- Member, IACA, The International Association of Comprehensive Aesthetics
- Member, American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine
- Voted “Top Doc” by Living Magazine
- Clinical Award for Excellence, UTHSCSA Dental School
- Member, Texas Academy of General Dentistry
- Denture Fountain of Youth® Dentist
- Invisalign® certified Dentist
- Honorable Mention, Greater Houston Dental Meeting Table Clinic Presentation
- Scholarship Award, Texas Association of Women Dentists
- Dean’s List, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Dental School
- Early Dual Degree Acceptance Program
- Dean’s List, Texas Tech University
- Golden Key National Honor Society
- Xi Psi Phi – Alumni
- Texas Tech Alumni
High Tech TMJ Care
Dr. Coats knows that it takes the right tools to do the job right. That’s why she’s assembled all the technologies that a TMJ dentist needs to properly diagnose and treat the condition.
T-Scan is a digital bite measurement device. It allows Dr. Coats to measure the amount of force you’re biting down with in real time. This identifies how much bite force is being put on each tooth, even allowing us to identify areas where you experience excessive force, even for a little while.
The K-7 system is an excellent complement to T-Scan. Dr. Coats can learn about your jaw joints and muscles with the K-7 system. K-7 includes three interrelated measurements. Digital jaw tracking allows her to see the exact movements of your jaws so she can identify any irregular motions or bad habits. Electrosonography allows Dr. Coats to understand the sounds of your jaw joint, and identify when joint tissues are being ground, damaged, or displaced. Electromyography measures the tension in your jaw muscles. Overworked jaw muscles can be a major contributor to TMJ related jaw pain and dysfunction. These two tools combined give us a real time picture of your jaw function, from your muscles to your teeth, including your jaw joints.
We complement these real-time measurements with static but detailed pictures of your mouth and jaw system using cone beam computed tomography (CBCT). CBCT constructs a 3D image of your mouth and jaw, allowing us to look at how your jaw position impacts the configuration of the temporomandibular joint, your airway, and other systems in the area. This helps Dr. Coats understand how your teeth and muscles can be contributing to the jaw dysfunction you are experiencing.
In the hands of a well-trained TMJ dentist, these tools can lead to accurate diagnosis and treatment of your condition.