Have you ever had TMJ pain flare up after eating a piece of crusty sourdough bread or snacking on beef jerky? Although stress is a common trigger for TMJ pain, the food you eat can also cause intense pain that can sometimes take days to resolve.
Foods to Avoid with TMJ Disorder
You likely know from experience which foods to avoid, but it’s always good to have a refresher. Some of the worst foods for TMJ pain are:
- Gum and chewy or sticky candies
- Bagels, crusty bread, and other chewy baked goods
- Apples, carrots, and other hard fruits and vegetables
- Chewy or tough meat
- Hard nuts
- Ice (put it in your drinks, use it in a cold compress for swelling, but don’t bite into it!)
If you’re not sure about a particular food, use your best judgment. Sometimes, you may be able to eat certain foods like steak or apples when you’re not in the midst of a flare-up, but when you’re already experiencing some tenderness, you should avoid them.
The Best Foods for TMJ Disorder
We take a holistic approach to wellness at TMJ Plus; your diet can cause inflammation in the body which, in turn, can aggravate TMJ pain. The diet we recommend reflects this. Patients with TMJ disorder should eat:
- A soft food diet. This doesn’t mean all smoothies and purees—a baked sweet potato is soft and easy to chew, as is baked salmon or scrambled eggs. When you’re having a particularly bad flare-up, you may wish to switch to smoothies-and-soups, but otherwise, avoiding hard foods is usually sufficient.
- A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods. This means eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans, and healthy fats. Turmeric and ginger are also powerful anti-inflammatory foods.
- A limited amount of foods that promote inflammation. Some of the worst inflammatory foods include sugar, refined carbohydrates, fried foods, and trans-fats like margarine. This doesn’t mean these foods are completely off-limits, but they should be eaten in moderation. When you do eat them, pay close attention to how your body reacts.
Many TMJ diets recommend foods like pudding, ice cream, and mashed potatoes; while these might not physically aggravate the TMJ when you’re eating, the inflammation they cause later does nothing to help your disorder. Combining a healthy balanced diet and soft foods is key to our approach.
Meal and Snack Ideas for TMJ Disorder Patients
Here are some ideas for what to eat when you’re experiencing a TMJ flare-up:
- Oatmeal swirled with fruit puree and a dash of ginger and cinnamon
- Scrambled eggs with spinach, along with a pinch of turmeric and black pepper
- Fruit-and-greens smoothie (try frozen mango, a handful of spinach, your favorite milk, and a generous pinch of turmeric)
- Meal prep burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans, roasted chicken, and your favorite toppings
- Soup—almost any variety will do!
- A baked sweet potato topped with your favorite chili
- Curry served over brown rice (curry powder is an excellent source of turmeric)
- Whole grain pasta with sheet-pan roasted chicken, vegetables, and pesto
- Cottage cheese
- Low- or no-sugar yogurt
- Cucumbers and hummus
- String cheese
- Watermelon or other soft fruits
- Banana and almond butter with a pinch of cinnamon
If you need more inspiration, we’re happy to connect you with a nutritionist to help you plan your meals.