Diet and Jaw Pain
Those who grind their teeth or experience jaw pain often avoid hard foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. A daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains are extremely important for good health and are major components of a healthy Mediterranean diet. People who suffer with TMJ pain and jaw problems gravitate to soft foods or an easy-to-chew diet—foods that require minimal chewing; and avoid raw, high-fiber foods that require a great deal of chewing.
A traditional soft food diet for those with TMJ jaw pain, often includes processed foods like white bread, muffins, puddings, mashed potatoes, overcooked pasta and boiled chicken. However, a soft food diet can also include healthy choices like yogurt, fresh cheeses, polenta, applesauce and pureed vegetable soups.
Below is a more detailed list of the types of foods to avoid and include for a healthy modern Mediterranean soft food diet:
Avoid hard cheeses, but do include these dairy foods:
- Fresh cheeses like ricotta, mozzarella, feta, quark and cottage cheese
- Low fat yogurt without added chunks of fruits, nuts, seeds or granola
- Low fat milk, soymilk, kefir or other plant-based enriched beverages
Avoid crunchy hard breads, crackers and chips, but do include whole grains and starchy vegetables:
- Sourdough whole-wheat bread without seeds and nuts
- Pancakes made with soy, almond or buckwheat flour, drizzled with pure maple syrup
- Mashed sweet or white potatoes
- Wholewheat pasta
- Buckwheat noodles
Avoid sticky dried fruits, but do include:
- Natural applesauce (no sugar added)
- Apple butter (no sugar added)
- Pureed fruits
- Cooked fruits without seeds and skins
- Ripe melon
Avoid raw vegetables, but do include:
- Cooked carrots
- Baba Ganoush
- Asparagus tips
- Cooked beets
- Pumpkin puree
- Puree of vegetables/puree of vegetable soup
- Cooked spinach, squash, zucchini, kale and other greens
- Tomato soup and tomato sauce
- Vegetable smoothies
Avoid stringy, hard meats, but do include these proteins:
- Cooked or pureed peas, lentils, beans
- Bean dip/refried beans
- Pea soup
- Lentil soup
- Smooth natural nut butter like smooth peanut butter or tahini
How You Eat Matters
The manner in which you eat is just as important as the foods that you eat.
- Choose a calm and relaxed atmosphere to eat.
- Don’t eat while standing up or hunched over.
- Take your time eating and never rush.
- If you are on a tight schedule, allow at least 30 minutes to enjoy your food.
- Take small bites of food.
- Use smaller utensils to help control the amount of food that you out on your fork or spoon.
- Chew your food slowly and thoroughly, and swallow slowly.
- Eat small frequent meals rather than three large meals.
- Avoid foods that you have difficulty chewing or cause discomfort.
If you have special dietary needs or are having jaw pain or difficulty chewing, then speak to a registered dietitian about an individualized dietary plan to fit your needs. Sometimes a supplemental beverage or powder will be added to make up for lost calories or nutrients that are missing from your diet during acute stages of jaw pain or TMJ disorder. A registered dietitian has the credentials to assess your needs and make appropriate recommendations for jaw pain relief. A healthy diet is essential to good health, including jaw and bone health. Consume a variety of foods and avoid added salts, sugars and saturated fats.