I Have to Stop Eating What?!

The pain of TMJD – temporomandibular joint disorder – can be pretty unbearable. To help reduce that pain, some patients have found that a change in what their eating brings relief. But does that mean you have to give up your favorite foods to feel better? 

What Are the TMJs? 

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint and is the name given to the jaw joints. It’s also known as the jaw-joint complex or just the jaw. This area includes both the lower jaw (mandible) and upper jaw (maxilla). These two bones are connected by ligaments and muscles. When these connective tissues become inflamed, it causes pain and discomfort.

The TMJs have three main functions: chewing, speaking and yawning. It’s important to note that each person has one pair of TMJs. They sit on either side of the face at the top of the head. Each TMJ consists of an articular disc and condyle. The articular disc sits between the mandible and maxilla, while the condyle fits into the glenoid fossa. The TMJ connects the skull with the temporal bone.

Who Gets TMJ Disorder? 

Anyone can get TMJ disorder. However, there are certain groups who are more likely to develop this condition. Some of those groups include:

  • People who chew their food too much
  • People who grind their teeth
  • People who wear braces
  • People who have had previous surgeries
  • People who have suffered trauma to the jaw
  • People who have bite issues

Stress can also contribute to the development of TMJ problems, so individuals who are under a lot of stress may find themselves developing this painful condition.

How Does TMJ Work? 

When we talk about TMJ, we’re talking about the jaw joints. There are many different types of disorders that can occur within the jaw joints. One of them is called internal derangement. Internal derangements occur when the jaw joint becomes dislocated. Another type of disorder is referred to as myofascial pain disorder, which affects the muscles around the jaw joint. There’s also degenerative joint disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, which can affect the jaw joints.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorder

There are many symptoms associated with TMJ disorder. Some common signs include:

  • Headaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Tenderness around the ear
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Neck pain
  • Earache
  • Swelling
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tooth grinding
  • Stiff neck
  • Facial pain

How Foods Can Make TMJ Pain Worse

When we talk about foods that make TMJ pain worse, we mean that certain foods can cause inflammation in the mouth. That inflammation can lead to more severe pain. If this happens, eating those foods will only make things worse.

Foods that increase inflammation in the mouth/body include: 

  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Fried food
  • Processed meats
  • Dairy products
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Sweets
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Refined grains
  • White flour

You probably looked at this list and panicked a little. Does having TMJD mean you have to give up eating your favorites on this list? No, not really. We do, however, recommend that you consume them in moderation. 

Eating some foods can cause your jaw muscles to tense up and tighten. These foods include:

Chewy foods. Chewy foods like gum and candies can make your jaw muscles tired and cause pain. 

Tough foods. Tough foods like nuts, seeds, steak and beef jerky that require a lot of chewing can irritate your jaw muscles. 

Crunchy foods. Crunchy foods like popcorn and potato chips can irritate your jaw muscle. Very crunchy veggies such as carrots can also bother your jaw joints. 

Ways to Avoid Aggravating TMJ Pain

Reduce your TMJ pain with these tips: 

Cut down on sugar. Sugar can cause inflammation in the body. In addition, it can cause tooth decay. So, cut back on eating sugary snacks and beverages.

Drink plenty of water. Water helps flush out toxins from the body. It also keeps your mouth moist.

Keep your teeth clean. Brushing and flossing regularly can reduce plaque buildup which can cause inflammation.

Take breaks during meal times. Taking short breaks throughout the day can help keep your jaw from becoming sore.

Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can cause headaches and other problems. Try to get seven hours of sleep every night.

Exercise. Regular exercise can strengthen your jaw muscles and keep your body healthy.

Use ice packs. Ice packs can be used to relieve pain and swelling.

See your dentist. Your dentist can provide you with advice on how to manage your TMJD. He or she may even suggest over-the-counter medications to help ease your pain and give you information about treatment options.

Treatment options may include: 

Physical therapy. Physical therapy for TMJD involves strengthening exercises designed to improve posture and flexibility. This can help alleviate some of the stress placed on the jaw joints.

Medication. Certain drugs can be prescribed by your doctor to treat TMJD. They can help relax your jaw muscles and reduce the amount of pressure put on your jaw joints.

Orthotics. Orthotics for TMJD can help by providing support to the jaw joint.

Surgery. There are several surgical procedures available to correct TMJ issues. However, they are usually reserved for people who experience extreme pain and discomfort.

Orthodontics. Orthodontics can help to correct bite issues that contribute to the development of TMJD. 

If you want to learn more about managing TMJ pain, visit call us now to schedule a consultation.