I’m trying to decide if I really need to see a dentist or if I can manage what I think is TMJ on my own. My friend researched online and found a site that says if I eat whole foods, my TMJ symptoms will improve. It didn’t promise the symptoms would go away, but it said they would get better. I’ve had mild jaw pain for the past three years, but it’s getting worse. Within the last three weeks, my jaw has locked during my sleep. That is a painful and scary feeling. Can you tell me what foods I should eat to improve TMJ? Anias from Vancouver, WA
Whole foods can nourish the body and improve many different conditions. But TMJ (temporomandibular joint) issues may not be related to what you eat. Nerve and muscle tension cause TMJ. Jaw muscles can get strained, injured, or sore. An accident, bruxism (teeth grinding), or facial trauma can provoke symptoms.
What Foods Can You Eat to Improve TMJ?
The foods you can eat to improve TMJ symptoms are related to food texture. The TMJ Association gives this advice on food choices:
- Choose soft or blended foods to give your jaw muscles a break.
- Try soup or pasta.
- Eat soft fruits like bananas and soft steamed vegetables.
What Foods Should You Avoid to Improve TMJ?
Avoid these food to improve TMJ symptoms:
- Hard, crunchy, or sticky foods, such as carrots and nuts.
- Avoid chewy foods and snacks, including taffy and chewing gum.
- Avoid foods that require you to open your mouth wide to bite them, such as apples.
How Can You Relieve TMJ Discomfort?
You can relieve TMJ discomfort by following these suggestions:
- Alternate warm and cold compresses on the side of your face where you feel discomfort.
- Use anti-inflammatory medication (unless it conflicts with other medicines you are taking or is otherwise not tolerable).
- Get a dental exam to determine whether you grind your teeth and will get relief by wearing a custom mouth guard at night.
Schedule a consultation with a dentist with advanced TMJ training. You will eventually need an exam and x-rays to identify the source of your discomfort.
Dr. Duane Delaune, an cosmetic dentist in Metairie, Louisiana, sponsors this post.