Your Diet and TMJ

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) can greatly affect your oral health and overall well-being. This can disrupt the normal functioning of your jaw joint and surrounding muscles. Over time, this can lead to eating and proper nutrition difficulties. In fact, there are certain ways that your diet can impact your jaw health.

Your Diet and TMJ

Pain and Discomfort While Chewing

TMJ can cause pain, discomfort, or a clicking sensation in the jaw joint, making chewing difficult and uncomfortable. This can lead to avoiding certain foods, especially those that require more chewing. This can include hard or tough meats, crunchy vegetables, and chewy candies.

Jaw Fatigue and Limited Opening

TMJ may result in jaw fatigue and limited jaw opening due to muscle tension. As a result, you may have challenges in opening your mouth wide enough to consume larger bites or bite into certain foods like apples or sandwiches.

Soft and Easy-to-Chew Foods

To manage symptoms, people often opt for a softer diet of easily chewable foods. This may include softer fruits, cooked vegetables, tender meats, pasta, rice, and soups. However, it’s crucial to keep a balanced and nutritious diet to support overall health.

Finding Nutritional Balance

While adapting your diet to accommodate TMJ symptoms, it’s crucial to maintain a well-rounded and nutrient-rich eating plan. 

Choose Soft, Nutrient-Dense Foods: Opt for soft foods that are nutrient-dense, such as yogurt, smoothies, mashed vegetables, and soft fruits like bananas or avocados. These foods provide essential vitamins and minerals while being gentle on the jaw joints.

Incorporate Protein Sources: Include protein-rich foods that require less chewing, such as fish, eggs, tofu, or ground meats. These options provide amino acids necessary for tissue repair and overall health.

Explore Alternative Cooking Methods: Experiment with cooking techniques that result in tender and easily chewable foods. Slow cooking, braising, or steaming can help soften meats and vegetables while retaining their nutritional value.

Seek Professional Guidance: Consult with a registered dietitian or nutritionist who can help you design a personalized eating plan that meets your nutritional needs while accommodating TMJ symptoms.

Avoid Trigger Foods

Certain foods can aggravate TMJ symptoms. Therefore, you should avoid them or eat them in moderation. These may include hard or chewy candies, tough meats, crunchy snacks, and foods that require excessive jaw movement. Pay attention to how your jaw responds to different foods and adjust accordingly.

Chewing Techniques and Modifications

Adopting proper chewing techniques can help alleviate strain on the jaw joints and reduce discomfort. As a result, you can try different eating techniques to help your jaw. 

Take Smaller Bites: Cut food into smaller, more manageable pieces to reduce strain on the jaw joints.

Chew Slowly and Thoroughly: Chew each bite before swallowing to aid digestion and reduce the amount of work your jaw muscles have to do.

Alternate Sides: Distribute the chewing load evenly by switching chewing on both sides of your mouth.

Seeking Professional TMJ Treatment

While diet changes can help manage TMJ symptoms, seeking professional treatment is vital for relief. A dentist can provide a full exam, diagnosis, and personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs.