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How Does Diet Impact TMJ?

April 6, 2023

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your lower jaw to your skull. You have two TMJs that slide and rotate in front of each ear when they assist you in movements like chewing and speaking. When something's wrong with your TMJ in Denver, you may experience pain and discomfort in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles, making eating, speaking, and sleeping difficult.  

It's important to note that what you eat impacts your TMJ. As your dental care provider addresses your TMJ issue, they may also explain how you can manage symptoms through dietary changes.  

A woman with a TMJ problem in Denver

The Role of Diet in Managing TMJ  

Maintaining a balanced diet is key to managing TMJ symptoms. Keeping a food diary can help you identify trigger foods and monitor nutrient intake. Working with a nutritionist can also help develop a TMJ-friendly diet plan.  

Foods that Can Exacerbate TMJ Symptoms  

Some foods can worsen TMJ symptoms, and intensify the pain and discomfort. Here are a few more examples of foods to avoid:

  • Hard or large fruits, such as apples or pears, require significant jaw movement to eat.
  • Tough or chewy meats, such as steak, jerky, or pork chops, can strain the jaw joint and muscles.
  • Crunchy or chewy snacks, such as popcorn, chips, or nuts, can put undue stress on the jaw.
  • Gum and candy, especially hard candy or taffy, can cause discomfort in the jaw.
  • Caffeinated beverages and alcohol can lead to dehydration which worsens TMJ symptoms.
  • Spicy foods, such as hot peppers or curry, can irritate the mouth and exacerbate TMJ pain.
  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges or lemons.  

It’s worth noting that not everyone with TMJ disorder will have the same trigger foods. As mentioned, consider keeping a food diary to track which foods cause you the most discomfort and avoid them accordingly.  

Foods that Can Alleviate TMJ Symptoms  

While avoiding trigger foods is important, incorporating certain foods into your diet can help alleviate TMJ symptoms. Here are a few examples of foods to consider:  

  • Soft and cooked vegetables, such as carrots or broccoli, are easy to chew and put less strain on the jaw.
  • Soft grains, such as oatmeal or quinoa.
  • Soft fruits, such as bananas or cooked apples.
  • Soft proteins, such as scrambled eggs or fish.
  • Foods rich in omega-3s, such as salmon or flaxseed, can help reduce inflammation in the jaw joint and muscles.
  • Foods rich in magnesium, such as spinach or almonds, can help relax muscles and alleviate TMJ pain.
  • Anti-inflammatory foods, such as blueberries, turmeric, or ginger, can help reduce inflammation and ease TMJ symptoms.  

In addition to these specific foods, maintaining a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can also help manage TMJ symptoms.  

Nutrients that Can Help Alleviate TMJ Symptoms  

In addition to incorporating specific foods into your diet, certain nutrients can also help minimize TMJ symptoms. Here are a few examples:  

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in foods such as salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds, omega-3s can help reduce inflammation and improve joint mobility.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium-rich foods, such as spinach, almonds, and avocado, can help relax muscles and reduce pain.
  • Calcium: Calcium is found in dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified foods. This nutrient is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth, which can help prevent TMJ disorder.
  • Vitamin D: Found in fatty fish, fortified foods, and exposure to sunlight, vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and maintain bone health.  

If you plan to take supplements, it’s best to talk to your doctor before taking them. Some supplements may interact with medications or have unwanted side effects.  

A man needing to manage TMJ pain in Denver

The Importance of Hydration for TMJ  

Staying hydrated is important for overall health, but it's especially important for TMJ sufferers. Since dehydration can worsen TMJ symptoms, it's important to drink plenty of water.  

Moreover, the recommended daily water intake for TMJ sufferers is 8-10 cups of water per day. However, you’ll want to drink water throughout the day rather than consuming large amounts at once. In addition to water, consider incorporating foods with high water content, such as cucumbers, watermelon, or soups, into your regular diet.  

Dietary Changes for Long-Term TMJ Management  

In addition to avoiding trigger foods and incorporating specific foods and nutrients, making long-term dietary changes can help manage TMJ symptoms. Here are a few tips:  

  • Chew slowly and deliberately.  

One important step is to chew your food slowly and deliberately to reduce the strain on your jaw joints and muscles and minimize TMJ pain. In addition, taking the time to cut your food into smaller pieces can make chewing easier.  

  • Avoid clenching or grinding your teeth.  

Clenching or grinding your teeth can worsen TMJ symptoms. For this reason, you’ll want to be mindful of when you are doing this and make a conscious effort to stop. Although this may require some practice and self-awareness, you’ll eventually break these habits and reduce TMJ pain.  

  • Practice good posture.  

Improving your posture can help reduce strain on the neck and jaw muscles, which can, in turn, alleviate TMJ pain. By sitting up straight and keeping your head aligned with your spine, you can minimize the pressure on your neck and jaw muscles, reducing the likelihood of TMJ symptoms.  

It’s important to note that correcting your posture isn’t a quick fix and may take some time and effort. However, it can be an effective long-term strategy for managing TMJ pain.  

  • Use heat or ice therapy.  

Applying a heat or ice pack to the jaw can help alleviate TMJ pain, reduce inflammation, and improve joint mobility. Experiment with both to see which works best for you.

  • Seek professional help.  

If your TMJ symptoms are severe or dietary changes are not helping, it may be time to seek professional help. Your dentist can evaluate your condition and recommend treatment options, such as physical therapy or surgery.  

A man getting treatment for TMJ pain in Denver

Do You Have TMJ Issues in Denver?  

Avoiding trigger foods, incorporating specific foods and nutrients, ensuring hydration, and making long-term dietary changes can help alleviate TMJ pain and discomfort. Your diet plays a crucial role in managing TMJ symptoms. However, managing TMJ requires a multi-faceted approach, and dietary changes are just one piece of the puzzle.  

If you are suffering from TMJ disorder, schedule an appointment with a skilled and experienced dentist at Makowski Dental to discuss treatment options and dietary changes that can help alleviate your symptoms.

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