Jaw pain affects millions of Americans. Often, jaw pain is caused by a temporomandibular disorder, generally shortened to TMJ or TMD. Jaw pain caused by TMJ/TMD can be crippling, affecting the ability to eat, speak, sleep comfortably, and much more. Advancements in neuromuscular dentistry are helping people permanently overcome TMJ symptoms. These techniques address bite alignment, correcting bites and relieving jaw discomfort – for good.
Thanks to this, many have already broken free from TMJ pain and discomfort yet a greater number of people continue to suffer. In fact, TMJ/TMD is believed responsible for millions of missed workdays each year, and even more sleepless nights. For those living with TMJ/TMD, dietary decisions can help reduce the onset and severity of TMJ symptoms.
What is TMJ?
TMJ is a common acronym for describing any of a number of temporomandibular disorders (TMDs). Temporomandibular disorders are those affecting the joint connecting the jaw to the skull, or temporomandibular joint (TMJ). There are two in the body, located just beneath the ear on either side of the face. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is responsible for opening and closing the jaw.
Genetics, clenching the jaw, grinding teeth (bruxism), and more can lead to the development of a TMD. When TMDs manifest it can lead to a number of negative health effects across the entire upper body. These include:
- Painful opening or closing of the jaw
- A “clicking” or “popping” sound or sensation in the TMJ
- Muscle aches in and around the neck, shoulders, and back
- Migraine headaches and nausea
- Difficulty sleeping and much more
Left untreated, these symptoms can increase over time. Symptoms that may begin as painless inconveniences can grow to become painful. This can lead to difficulty speaking, chewing, and more. To help reduce symptoms or prevent the onset of painful TMJ discomfort, experts recommend adopting a TMJ diet.
The TMJ Diet
In many cases, TMJ pain in the jaw is caused by muscle inflammation. Continued exacerbation of the muscle group can increase symptom severity. To help limit discomfort, many people choose to eat less leading to malnutrition. Over time, this can lead to serious complications. To help alleviate TMJ symptoms, dentists recommend the following dietary choices:
Take smaller bites. Small portion size can reduce the burden placed on the jaw for breaking down morsels. Chop, dice, and cut food into small, bite-sized portions.
Opt for softer foods. Soft foods are easier to break down. Soups and smoothies are a great way to get nutrition. Softening up other foods by steaming, adding gravies, and other cooking methods can help make eating easier.
Pass on chewy foods. Prolonged chewing places a lot of strain on the jaw muscles and will likely aggravate TMJ/TMDs. To reduce symptoms and inflammation, avoid foods that are too chewy. This includes chewing gum.
Forgo the fat. Foods with high-fat content (especially saturated fat) have been linked to increased muscle inflammation in the jaw and elsewhere. Pass on fried foods, rich sauces, desserts, and other fatty options to help reduce TMJ symptoms.
Skip refined sugars. Refined sugars are a known contributor to muscle inflammation. Sodas, sweets, and a number of processed foods are high in refined sugars and will likely increase TMJ/TMD pain and discomfort.
Say “so long” to your bad habits. Vices like alcohol and nicotine can aggravate TMJ/TMDs and are known to cause negative health consequences across the body. Kicking the habit can help limit TMJ discomfort and can help improve overall health.
Making dietary changes can help reduce painful TMJ symptoms. By limiting the amount of work placed on the TMJ, the surrounding muscles can better manage the TMD while awaiting treatment. Today, permanent TMJ relief is available. For many people, TMJ/TMDs can be treated with neuromuscular dentistry. Neuromuscular dentists seek the root cause of TMJ symptoms and can recommend permanent treatment solutions. Experience a life without the constant pain and discomfort associated with TMJ. To find out more about permanent solutions for TMJ and TMDs, call your dentist today.