If you have TMJ jaw pain, jaw dysfunction, and damaged teeth can make it hard for you to eat a normal diet. This can have several significant impacts on your health if it’s not just an occasional occurrence. Changing up your diet is one of the natural remedies for TMJ pain. However, it usually isn’t sustainable long-term but can provide temporary relief.

Learn what you need to know about a TMJ diet and the dietary side effects that come with it.

young woman eating healthy in her kitchen

What to Eat on a TMJ Diet

If you’re trying to reduce the side effects and symptoms from TMJ, one of the easiest ways to reduce your pain is by going on a TMJ diet. A TMJ diet’s purpose is to help you rest your jaws. This means you won’t eat foods that require much chewing. Instead, you will eat primarily soft or liquid foods. Some examples of foods we recommend eating include:

  • Smoothies
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Protein shakes
  • Fish
  • Yogurt
  • Beans
  • Soft Fruits
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Soft cheese
  • Soup
  • Oatmeal

Eating soft food is a good start, it’s even better to eat food that reduces inflammation because TMJ disorders can cause inflammation. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish can help you fight inflammation and reduce TMJ pain.

What to Avoid on a TMJ Diet

On the flip side, there are also a lot of foods you should avoid while on a TMJ diet. Any type of food that requires excess chewing should probably be avoided. For example, try not to eat:

  • Chips
  • Nuts
  • Hard vegetables
  • Candy
  • Apples
  • Hard bread
  • Steak
  • Popcorn
  • Granola
  • Cereal (unless it’s extra soggy)
  • Chewy candy

Your goal is to chew as little as possible. If you want to eat something you know takes a lot of chewing, don’t eat it. 

One of our TMJ diet secrets is to avoid foods that cause inflammation because TMJ can also cause inflammation in the jaw. Eating foods that add to the inflammation will only make symptoms worse. For example, try avoiding alcohol, coffee, gluten, non-whole grains, dairy, fried foods, red meat, soda, and excess sugar. After cutting certain foods out of your diet, you will notice your pain subside. Certain foods might also be migraine triggers that you didn’t know about. Or your migraines were linked directly to TMJ. So many foods can trigger migraines, even excess salt. Simply changing up your diet might be the cure to your headaches.

Side Effects of a TMJ Diet

Of course, no diet comes without a few side effects. If you’re going to try out a TMJ diet to try and reduce your pain, stay aware of all the different dietary side effects you might encounter and how to avoid them.

Weight Loss

One of the most common side effects of TMJ is that you are unable to eat because your jaw won’t open, or eating becomes too painful or exhausting to do it often. This can lead to unhealthy weight loss. Although the average American can spare a few pounds, people with TMJ can become dangerously underweight.

To avoid weight loss, make your foods more calorie-intensive. Healthy fats like olive oil or butter can significantly increase your caloric intake to help you gain weight. Adding whey or ground seeds to your diet can also help increase your calories so you can gain weight. Ideally, adding protein is best, followed by fats, followed by alcohol and sugars, but to some extent calories are calories.

Work hard to find meals that you enjoy that are also healthy. Enjoying balanced meals is the best way to ensure you’re getting enough calories and staying healthy.

On the flip side, weight loss might help reduce your jaw pain. Studies have found that losing weight can help reduce pain in all areas of the body, including the jaw.

Weight Gain

Some people with TMJ have the opposite problem. Jaw pain, dysfunction, or tooth wear can make it hard to eat hard foods, which can lead to a diet composed mostly of soft, processed junk foods. Ice cream, cakes, and some fast food meals can be easy to eat with a sore jaw, but they are nutrient-poor and high in unhealthy fats and sugars.

If you experience weight gain after TMJ, try cutting down on prepared foods and making more of your meals yourself. Limit portion sizes and always emphasize nutrient-rich foods.

Constipation

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the most common source of fiber in our diet, so when TMJ cuts these out of your diet, it’s common to develop constipation. Try adding fiber with fruit nectars (these contain some fruit pulp as well as juice), and use soluble fiber supplements to help keep your digestive tract in healthy function.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Another problem with cutting fresh fruits and vegetables out of your diet is that you’re just not getting enough nutrients. Try to make sure you’re getting a good balance of fruits and vegetables, but also consider taking a multivitamin. Caution: some larger multivitamins may be hard to swallow if you have TMJ.

Get Back to Eating Food You Love Again With TMJ Treatment

If you are tired of trying to just live with your TMJ and don’t want to limit what kind of food you eat, our TMJ dentist in Columbia, SC, can help. Please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment at Smile Columbia Dentistry.