Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders affect the joints that connect the skull, the lower jaw and the chewing muscles. Temporomandibular joints are found on either side of the head in front of your ears. They connect the skull to the lower jaw with a small cartilage disc separating the bones allowing the lower jaw to slide with ease. These joints come into action each time you talk, chew or swallow.
An injury or damage to the temporomandibular joint may lead to a disorder that is referred to as temporomandibular joint syndrome. Although TMJ is the abbreviation for this joint, it is widely used in reference to the disorders as well as symptoms associated with it.
TMJ usually responds to a number of home remedies that range from application of ice packs to the affected joint to the use of over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as well as massage, gentle stretches, stress reduction and avoiding chewing gum among others. While you can get TMJ pain treatment, evidence suggests that changes in the diet can be helpful in easing the symptoms.
Should home treatment fail to work, medical treatment that includes prescription medications, physical therapy, Botox injections and in some cases, surgery may be recommended.
If you suffer from TMJ, you will experience several symptoms, most of which are also associated with other ailments. In fact, in most instances, it is difficult to distinguish TMJ from other medical conditions. Thus, you will do well to consult a dentist for proper treatment and care.
Generally, symptoms of TMJ include the following:
- Pain or tenderness or discomfort in the jaw joint particularly when closing and opening the mouth
- Sore or stiff jaw muscles
- Pain around the temple area
- Feeling uncomfortable when chewing
- Discomfort or difficulty when chewing.
- Locked jaw joint
- Ringing or popping sound (tinnitus) in the ears or a feeling of fullness in the ears
- Earaches or a cracking sound in the ears
- Pain that is similar to a toothache
- The presence of a grating, clicking or popping sound when moving the jaw, especially in the joint.
- You may also experience cheek pain, mouth pain, facial pain, tingling or numbness in the chin, and back and shoulder pain.
- Severe headaches that include migraines
- Blurred vision
- Muscle spasm within the jaw
- Stiff, tight or sore neck or jaw muscles
- Vertigo or dizziness
Symptoms of TMJ are usually aggravated by physical stress on the structures surrounding the joint, facial muscle strain and poor neck posture. Lack of sleep, a poor diet and life’s stress can also contribute to TMJ.
You may experience symptoms of TMJ due to a number of factors. The most common reasons include:
- Overuse of the chewing muscles. That is, if you are constantly chewing gum, biting your pencils or fingernails, grinding your teeth, clenching your jaw, biting your lips or cheeks or engaging in other activities, then you are likely to experience TMJ symptoms.
- Plain, old and worn-out jaw muscles due to overuse.
- Damaged joint cartilage due to arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders.
- Misalignment of teeth or trauma to the jaw or teeth
- Orthodontic braces
- Poor posture
- Extreme gum chewing
- Anxiety or stress
Dietary Guidelines For Reducing TMJ Pain
Although it is true that eating crunchy foods when you have TMJ can be difficult and will even aggravate TMD pain, it is important to keep in mind the fact that the nutritional content of the food you consume can have an impact on your condition.
Consequently, if you are suffering from TMJ disorder, you need to increase your intake of:
- Anti-inflammatory foods such as fish that is rich in Omega 3, dark leafy greens, brightly colored plant foods.
- Foods that impact joint health like foods that are rich in vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium and magnesium
Integrating A Soft Diet For TMJ Relief
The inability to eat properly has seen people who suffer from TMJ lose weight, change their lifestyle and in some cases fall into depression. Even then, it is possible to switch to a soft diet to improve nutrition. A soft diet for TMJ comprises of well-cooked veggies and fruits, smoothies, eggs, yogurt and soups.
Some of the protein-rich foods that you may consider for your TMJ diet include soft cooked turkey or chicken, meatballs, tuna, and fish sticks among others. For vegetables, you will do well to consider cooked carrots, zucchini, squash, kale, spinach, avocados, green beans, legumes, creamed corn and cooked pumpkin among others. Be sure to avoid vegetables that are stringy like celery.
Foods To Avoid
Certain foods must be avoided when you are suffering from a TMJ disorder. They include the following:
- Inflammatory foods: Stay away from foods that can spark joint pain like sugars, processed foods, alcohol, salt, corn oil and refined carbohydrates
- High-impact foods: These are foods that require the jaw to work harder like nuts, hard bread and candy
- Gum: Although this is not food, frequent chewing of gum can result in chronic jaw pain
- Salicylates: Keep off foods containing salicylates such as olives, dairy, juices and hot pepper
- Aggravating foods: Avoid foods that will aggravate jaw muscles and joint pain.
There are many dietary measures that you can take to reduce the chances of TMJ. Proper nutrition is the first line of defense when it comes to ensuring proper TMJ health and functioning.
Shen Chao is part of Dr. Joshua Hong’s Smile Clinic. While working at the Smile Clinic, he has witnessed how dental implants can improve people’s smile and boost their self confidence. If you are interested in improving your smile or need a dental procedure, visit: www.joshuahongdds.com.