TMJ Diet Do’s and Don’ts: Foods to Eat and Avoid

TMJ Diet Do's and Don'ts: Foods to Eat and Avoid

If you are experiencing TMJ pain, chewing foods that require a lot of force or are hard and crunchy can overwork the jaw muscles and exacerbate symptoms. Try to stick with a soft diet of smoothies, pureed fruits and vegetables, and cooked meats like chicken and fish.

Large sandwiches, corn on the cob, and large pieces of fruit can overtax the jaw, too. Make sure to cut these foods into smaller bites.

Avoid Chewy Foods

If you have a chronic TMJ disorder, chewy foods should be avoided because they place excessive strain on the jaw joints. Avoid chewing raw vegetables, hard meats, and crunchy sweets like caramel, taffy, and gummy candy. Instead, eat soft foods that require less chewing, like soups, stews, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, yogurt, and kefir. In addition to eating soft foods, you should also limit your intake of fats. It can help reduce inflammation in your jaw, joints, and mouth. Choose low-fat or skim milk, lean meats, and grilled fish, and reduce the amount of fatty sauces and pastries you consume. Add more foods rich in anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as berries, leafy greens, and tomatoes, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocado. The anti-inflammatory nutrients in these foods can help to relax tense jaw muscles and reduce the pain of TMJ.

Increasing the amount of foods high in magnesium in your diet can help lessen mouth, joint, and jaw inflammation. This mineral can be found in nuts, beans, and dark chocolate. It can also be incorporated into your diet by drinking smoothies made with berries and spinach or eating leafy greens, tomatoes, and broccoli. In addition to reducing inflammation, these foods’ nutrients can help prevent TMJ symptoms from worsening. 

Avoid Foods That Trigger Inflammation

When inflammation in the jaw is a problem, avoiding foods that cause it can help. For example, high levels of fat found in fried foods, cream sauces, and pastries are often triggers for TMJ pain. Foods with added sugar should also be avoided since these can increase inflammation.

Similarly, consuming too many processed meats is a big TMJ trigger. Instead, stick with lean protein options like fish, poultry, or boiled chicken. These are typically less fibrous and chewy, making them more tolerable for a TMJ diet.

Additionally, reducing the amount of salt and sugar in your diet is also helpful for TMJ treatment. Foods high in sugar and salt can exacerbate symptoms by causing clenching of the jaw and adding more stress to the area. TMJ sufferers should also avoid slouching when sitting at work or at home, as this can cause the jaw to tighten and add extra strain to the area. Lastly, sufferers need to check in with their TMJ specialist regularly to ensure that they are not clenching or grinding their teeth in their sleep (called bruxism), which can also put excessive pressure on the jaw area.

Avoid Foods That Are High in Fat

TMJ pain and stiffness can make eating challenging, especially for people who take large bites. Choosing a diet that removes foods requiring the jaw to open and close heavily can help alleviate symptoms and prevent complications. A TMJ-friendly diet can include protein, fruits, and vegetables as long as they don’t require extensive chewing. Some good options include eggs, fish, hummus, tofu, yogurt, and soft cheeses. Avoid red meats, pastries, fried foods, and rich sauces high in fat, which typically trigger inflammation. Some vegetables are more accessible to eat when they’re steamed, stewed, or mashed. Cooked winter squash, carrots, peas, or pureed soups like squash, potato, and tomato are excellent choices. Starches and grains are also an essential part of a TMJ diet. Try mashed potatoes, pasta, couscous, and polenta.

Patients can maintain strong bones, including those in the jaw, by including calcium and vitamin D in their diets and avoiding specific foods. Dairy products, leafy greens, legumes, nuts, and fortified bread are high in calcium and vitamin D. Getting enough magnesium in the diet can also be helpful; it is an antioxidant that promotes muscle relaxation and benefits TMJ sufferers. Good sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, dark leafy vegetables, avocados, and low-fat dairy products.

Avoid Foods That Are High in Sugar

In addition to avoiding chewy foods, TMJ sufferers should also be careful about consuming foods high in sugar. Excess sugar can influence your nervous system to cause you to clench your jaw more often, which can aggravate your TMJ pain and symptoms. You may not realize it, but sugar can hide in many foods and drinks you consume. Juices, for example, can contain a lot of sugar — even some labeled as all-natural or made with 100% juice. Many granola and snack bars also have a lot of sugar, too. These items are marketed with words like “natural,” “organic,” or even “healthy.”

TMJ sufferers should also try to limit their fat intake, which can increase inflammation in the body. It’s true of fried foods, cream sauces, pastries, and red meat. It is essential to stick with low-fat dairy, lean meats, and fish instead. TMJ sufferers can still eat plenty of healthy, delicious foods while following a diet that won’t aggravate their temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Choose soft foods such as scrambled eggs, yogurt, oatmeal, pudding, applesauce, bananas, berries, and watermelon. Also, eat vegetables, but avoid raw veggies if possible; cook them until soft. Other good choices include mashed potatoes, pasta, couscous and polenta.

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