Temporomandibular Joint Disorder can present in plenty of different ways, from a mild annoyance to a debilitating condition. When TMJ becomes so painful or uncomfortable that it interferes with daily life, some turn to lifestyle changes to alleviate symptoms for TMJ treatment without surgery. One of the most effective changes that people suffering from moderate to severe TMJ can make is switching to a new diet for TMJ specifically. Read more to find out which foods can help your TMJ pain and how.

What Is TMJ?

Your temporomandibular joints are located on each side of your head and connect your jawbone to your skull. They are the sliding “hinges” that allow you to open and close your jaw to chew, talk, yawn, etc. These joints can become injured or misaligned due to overuse or trauma or from the psychological stressors that induce pressure from teeth grinding or clenching. When these conditions create symptoms like jaw pain, headaches, tooth pain, sensitivity, locking or stiff jaw, earaches, neck and shoulder pain, orofacial pain, etc., it is a diagnosable condition called Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (sometimes just called TMJ, TMD, or TMJD.)

What Are the Best Soft Foods to Eat in a Diet for TMJ?

Any TMJ and orofacial pain clinic will tell you that because TMJ disorders are caused by trauma or overuse of the joints, eating certain foods can either help or hurt your symptoms. A soft food diet for TMJ is recommended as the food you don’t have to chew very much can help the temporomandibular joints rest and reduce inflammation, while other foods can help strengthen the jaw over time. Some of the best soft foods to eat include:

  • Quinoa
  • Farina
  • Yogurt
  • Applesauce
  • Beans
  • Fish
  • Soft chicken
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Ground meat
  • Tofu
  • Well-cooked vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Meatloaf
  • Soups
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Fruit and yogurt smoothie
  • Hot cereals
  • Cottage cheese

Some of the foods included in a diet for TMJ designed to make the jaw stronger without inflaming your symptoms include naturally occurring compounds and nutrients that have proven to contribute to overall joint health. Some of these include:

  • Moderate amounts of organ meats and red meats, which contain joint-repair compounds.
  • Gelatin and hyaluronic acid are natural joint-strengthening agents.
  • Certain saturated fats. While consuming these in moderation can strengthen joints, too much-saturated fats will contribute to weight gain, which in turn is detrimental to your joints.

What Are Foods to Avoid With TMJ?

In the same way that a soft food diet for TMJ can help alleviate symptoms, you can also eat things that make TMJ worse, leaving many patients wondering, “Why does it hurt to eat?” These foods include:

  • Hard or crunchy foods that strain the jaw
  • Exceedingly chewy foods like taffy, beef jerky, etc.
  • Preservatives, especially MSG
  • Starchy foods like wheat
  • Dairy
  • Sugar
  • Yeast
  • Foods with a high content of salicylates (e.g., jellies, jams, juices)

Getting Help

Adopting a diet for TMJ is one of many steps you can take for noninvasive methods of treating your TMJ. If you have more questions about TMJ treatment in Reno, Northern Nevada Center for Orofacial Pain specializes in helping TMJ patients take control of their symptoms and get their lives back. If you’re suffering from TMJ or another orofacial pain condition, call today for your initial consultation!