What to Eat (and What NOT to Eat) With a TMJ Disorder

When you have a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), simple things like eating can be extremely difficult. That’s because the jaw pain and stiffness that often goes hand in hand with a TMD can make chewing anything from painful to nearly impossible. Thankfully, there are some foods that are easier on the temporomandibular joint than others. If you suffer from TMD pain, check out this list of TMD-safe (and not-so-safe) foods.

Soft Foods

It makes sense that eating soft foods would help a TMD. That’s because the less work your jaw has to do to break down your food, the less strain and pressure you are putting on your temporomandibular joint. But not all soft foods are created equal. For example, gummy bears and taffy are pretty soft – but they’re also really chewy and sticky, which could actually make your TMD pain (not to mention your teeth!) worse. Same goes for bubblegum. Yes, sugarless chewing gum can help reduce the acid that causes cavities and plaque, but it can also put undue strain on your jaw.

Some great ideas for soft foods to try with a TMD are yogurt, oatmeal, protein smoothies, soft cheeses, rice, beans, eggs, hummus, peanut butter, quinoa, avocado, bananas, fish, tofu and ground meat.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, tofu and dark greens (such as the kind added to many protein smoothies) have the added bonus of not just being easier to chew, but also containing anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce some of the pain and swelling of your TMD.

Foods to Avoid

Nobody likes to have to give up their favorite foods, especially if it’s because of a painful medical condition and not by choice. But when you have a TMD, sometimes the best thing you can do for your pain is put some of those favorites on the back burner for a while. Foods you should skip include crunchy foods like nuts, crackers, chips, apples or raw vegetables; foods that can be tough to chew like some breads, meats such steak, chicken or pork (unless ground), dehydrated meats or jerky, and dehydrated fruits; and gum, candy and very salty foods that may worsen inflammation.

While nobody likes having a TMD, have an open mind and use the experience as an opportunity to experiment with new foods and new recipes that make eating your favorite foods a little easier. Love steak? Try a steak burger instead. Swap out your pork chops for salmon, or skip the fried chicken and try a new chicken curry recipe in your Instapot. It’s less prep work, better for you, and tender enough to keep your TMD from worsening.

Still have questions about what and what not to eat with a TMD? Give Dr. George’s office a call at 724-934-3422.

Dr. Alexandra S. George

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alexandra S. George - D.D.S., L.Vl.I.F. on May 24th, 2018