Eating with TMJ Pain
by Dr. Scott Bolding | Sept. 7, 2021
Eating with a TMJ disorder can be challenging. When your jaw joint hurts, it’s hard to know what to eat and not eat. Some foods make your TMJ pain worse. Others can help give your jaw joint the rest it needs. Many patients have a hard time knowing exactly how to eat with TMJ pain.
What you eat with a TMJ disorder has a major impact on the healing/treatment process. Going on a soft food diet is usually recommended. A soft food diet gives your jaw joint a chance to rest. When treating any joint 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 with a TMJ disorder.
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What Should I Not Eat with TMJ Pain?
Food that you should not eat with TMJ pain 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 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.
Ceatus Media Group. (2014, November 6). Foods to Eat If Your Jaw Hurts. Headache & TMJ Center of New Jersey. https://www.headachetmjnewjersey.com/foods-eat-jaw-hurts/
What Are The Best Foods To Eat To Ease TMJ? | TMJ Plus. (2020, October 22). TMJ Plus Wellness Center. https://www.tmjplus.com/what-are-the-best-foods-to-eat-to-ease-tmj/
Colgate. (2022, February 9). Foods To Eat When Your TMJ Is Aching. https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/temporomandibular-disorder/foods-to-eat-with-tmj
Eating with TMJ Pain
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.