Eating with TMJ Pain
by Dr. Scott Bolding | Sept. 7, 2021
Table of Contents
01. What Should I Not Eat with TMJ Pain?
02. What Should I Eat with TMJ Pain?
03. What About an Anti-Inflammatory Diet for TMJ Pain?
04. What if Changing My Diet Doesn’t Help?
Dealing with the pain of a TMJ disorder can make everyday things like eating more difficult. When your jaw joint hurts, eating certain foods can make it worse. At the same time, there are certain foods that if eaten consistently over time can help relieve inflammation and reduce the pain of more severe TMJ disorders. But many patients have a hard time knowing exactly how to eat with TMJ pain.
Regardless of the severity of your TMJ disorder, what you eat can have a major impact on the healing/treatment process. Remember, like your jaw joint is like the other joints in your body. For example, if you injure your ankle or experience some pain in your knee, what do you do? Usually, you try to rest it as much as possible. You may try a knee brace or something to help support the joint. But the goal is to take as much pressure off of the joint as possible. And when you experience pain in your jaw joint, you want to take a similar approach. You want to rest it. You don’t want to overwork it. You want to give it time to heal. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to what you eat when dealing with a TMJ disorder.
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What Should I Not Eat with TMJ Pain?
Food that you should not eat when you are dealing with a TMJ disorder include:
- Sticky or chewy candy, like caramel
- Crusty bread and bagels
- >Tough meat like steak
- Hard fruits like apples
- Hard, crunchy veggies like carrots or celery
- Fatty foods
Hard, crispy, and chewy foods are often difficult for people with TMJ disorders to eat. These foods make your jaw work harder in order to bite and chew. The more your jaw has to work while you eat, the more inflammation increases.
Unhealthy, fat-rich foods also increase inflammation in your body in general. If you want to reduce inflammation in your jaw joint and other areas of your body it’s important to avoid red meat, pastries, and fried foods.
What Should I Eat with TMJ Pain?
Food that you can and should eat when you are dealing with TMJ pain include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Soft fruits like bananas and pears
- Cooked veggies
A soft food diet is ideal for dealing with TMJ pain. These foods give your jaw a chance to rest, which helps it heal.
What About an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
Some studies show that certain foods can help reduce inflammation naturally. An anti-inflammatory diet combined with other treatments can help people who are dealing with chronic or severe TMJ disorders. The key to making a diet like this successful is sticking with it long term and following the entire treatment plan your TMJ specialist outlines for you. When it comes to severe or chronic TMJ disorders, diet alone won’t solve your problems.
But it can help. There are specific groups of foods that can work with your body to control inflammation and reduce pain.
Antioxidant rich foods protect your body from free radicals, which cause disease and inflammation. Fresh fruits and several vegetables are packed with antioxidants. Try including spinach, potatoes, avocados, sweet potatoes, and squash in your regular diet. Berries and melons also have a lot of antioxidants in them and can help reduce inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also helpful. Omega-3 fatty acids can actually stop inflammation from forming. They can be found in cold water fish like salmon, plant oils, and eggs. (Kuhn Dental Associates)
You can also add turmeric and ginger to your meals.
What if a Soft Food Diet Doesn’t Help?
Eating with TMJ pain can be a challenge. It’s important to make sure you give your jaw joint a chance to rest and heal. For patients with a mild TMJ disorder, changing to a soft food diet is one of the best ways to treat it. You can also use heat and ice to reduce inflammation in the joint, just like you would if you injured your knee. Some patients will also benefit from a bite brace or TMJ mouth guard. When treating mild TMJ pain, the goal is to give your jaw joint as much time to heal as possible.
However, patients with a more severe TMJ disorder will need more than just simple diet changes in order to find relief. The right treatment plan will depend on what is going on inside the joint. A thorough, comprehensive diagnosis is crucial for making sure we understand what is causing your TMJ pain. In some cases, you will need to consider surgery. Even though in these cases diet alone won’t relieve your pain, a soft diet packed with anti-inflammatory rich foods will go a long way in making your treatment successful. Again, if you get surgery on your knee or ankle or any other joint in your body, you will need to rest for a while so the joint can heal. And when you get surgery to fix a TMJ disorder, changing your diet will give your jaw joint a chance to rest as well.