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July 2, 2022

What Should I Eat If I’m Dealing with TMJ Disorder?

Image of assorted fruits and vegetables.

Everyone loves to eat! But sometimes, eating can be tricky and uncomfortable if you suffer from TMJ disorder. Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the most important joint in your whole body, so when it starts to run into problems and your ability to eat is affected, seeking treatment is crucial. But is there anything you can do yourself to help manage your jaw pain? Keep reading to learn more about how being mindful of your diet can play a huge role in managing your TMJ discomfort, along with some additional tips for preventing jaw pain.

Excellent Food Options for Eating with TMJ Disorder

Consider these foods to both pursue a healthy-diet and manage your TMJ discomfort:

  • Softer fruits like bananas, pears, ripe melons, canned fruits, and applesauce.
  • Cooked vegetables like carrots, peas, squash, and asparagus.
  • Lean, soft proteins like eggs, chicken, fish, and tofu.
  • Grains and starches including pasta, mashed potatoes, rice, oatmeal, and couscous.
  • Dairy options such as yogurt, soft cheeses, pudding, and ice cream.

Foods to Avoid When Dealing with TMJ Disorder

Jaw pain can be intense and debilitating at times, and certain foods will only aggravate your TMJ disorder further. Steer clear of these items:

  • Chewy and tough meats like steak or beef jerky.
  • Hard breads and baked goods like bagels.
  • Chewy, sticky, or hard candies.
  • Hard nuts and seeds.
  • Ice cubes (these are for cooling drinks—not chewing).
  • Hard and crisp fruits and veggies like apples or raw carrots.
  • Items with high amounts of sugar, refined carbs, or trans fats (these can cause inflammation).

Tips for Preventing TMJ Pain

Aside from considering your diet, there are other things you can do to manage your TMJ pain. One thing to be mindful of is bruxism—the grinding or clenching of your teeth. If your jaw aches when you wake up in the morning, you might need to visit your dentist and seek treatment; special mouthguards are usually capable of addressing bruxism. TMJ exercises can also be performed regularly to strengthen, stretch, and relax the jaw. Facial massages are also useful. And ice packs and heating pads can help to reduce swelling and relax your jaw muscles, respectively.

Constant TMJ pain isn’t something that you should have to live with; treatment options exist and can get your jaw back to feeling normal. That said, also knowing what you should and shouldn’t eat when dealing with jaw pain can go a long way towards ensuring that your mouth is comfortable whenever it’s time to fuel up.

About the Author

Dr. James Olsen has proudly served patients and families in the Ann Arbor area for several years. Dr. Olsen received his dental doctorate from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and is a member of several professional organizations including the American Dental Association and the Michigan Dental Association. His practice is pleased to offer many available services including TMJ therapy. If you have any questions for Dr. Olsen or would like to schedule a visit, feel free to reach out online or over the phone: (734) 996-0200.

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