Eating with TMJ Pain

A Guide to Staying Healthy with a TMJ Disorder

Eating with a TMJ Disorder is Hard

But Not Impossible

Having a TMJ disorder can have a major impact on all areas of your life. The pain is hard to bare. You might miss work or school because of the pain. Even something as simple as eating with TMJ pain is difficult. Your jaw is stiff, so it’s hard to bite foods like apples or bread. It hurts too much to chew certain foods like steak or nuts. 

Eating with TMJ pain is frustrating for a lot of people. Especially if you’re trying to stay healthy. Many TMJ patients feel lost when it comes to finding food that doesn’t cause pain. How can they take care of their aching jaw joint and still have a healthy diet? 

Well, we want to answer that question in this guide. This guide is all about eating with TMJ pain. We’ll talk about what you should and should eat. And we’ll take a look at why your diet is so important to treating TMJ pain. Our goal is to help you walk away with a game plan for how you can eat healthy with a TMJ disorder.

Eating with TMJ pain can be difficult. But with a few adjustments to your diet, you can stay healthy and help your body heal at the same time.

Why is Diet So Important for Treating TMJ Pain?

When it comes to treating TMJ pain we always talk about the different options available like mouthguards and surgery. But we often forget that even the little things can have an impact on how effective your treatment plan is. And while you can’t treat TMJ pain with diet alone, adjusting what you eat can help.

Paying attention to your diet can help your body get the nutrients it needs and gives your jaw joint a chance to rest.

Eating is about more than just filling an empty stomach. It’s about getting the right nutrients into your body. A healthy body is better at healing and fighting off disease. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re eating healthy food. Fruits and vegetables are essential to a healthy diet. You need to be eating enough if you want your jaw joint to heal well.

Healthy Eating with TMJ Pain

Eating the right food also gives your jaw joint a break. The most important thing you an do for your TMJ is let it rest. This is how we treat all the other joints in your body. If you have an injured knee your doctor will tell you to stay off of it for a few days. Resting the joint gives it time to heal. Well, your jaw joint is similar. When it hurts, you need to rest it. Of course, that’s difficult to do because you need it to eat.  And that’s where adjusting your diet comes in. Choosing to go on a soft food diet will take pressure off your TMJ and gives it a chance to rest. 

There are also certain foods that fight inflammation. We’ll talk more about those later

What Shouldn’t I Eat with TMJ Pain?

Before we talk about what you can and should eat with a TMJ disorder, we need to talk about what you shouldn’t eat.

The most important thing is to think about foods that put too much pressure on the jaw joint. You want to avoid hard, chewy, or crunchy foods. These all require big bites or a lot of chewing. This motion will strain an already sore joint.

Here’s a list of food you should avoid if you have a TMJ disorder:

  • Caramel
  • Crusty bread
  • Bagels
  • Steak
  • Nuts
Shouldn't Eat with TMJ Pain

Unfortunately, some healthy foods, like apples and carrots, are also ruled out. And this is where many TMJ patients become frustrated. They want to stay healthy but a lot of their favorite healthy foods, like raw vegetables, hurt to eat.

What Can I Eat with TMJ Pain?

While it may seem like eating well with TMJ pain is hopeless, we can assure you that it is possible. You can eat healthy even with TMJ pain. You just have to adjust your diet a bit.

As we’ve mentioned already, it’s important to eat softer foods when you have a TMJ disorder. A soft food diet puts less stress on your jaw joint. And luckily, there are plenty of healthy foods you can eat on a soft food diet.


Apples aren’t the only kind of fruit. In fact, there are plenty of fruits that are soft and easy to eat, including:

  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Pears

Blueberries are especially good for you. They are considered a superfood, full of antioxidants and essential vitamins.

You can also blend fruit together to make a smoothie. Add some protein powder or other supplements to the smoothie for added nutrition.


Eating vegetables is also possible with TMJ pain. Most raw vegetables are too hard so you’ll have to cook them. Cooked summer squash, carrots, and asparagus are great options. You can also add vegetables like kale to a fruit smoothie. Soup is another great way to get the vegetables your body needs.


You want to avoid chewy meat like steak and hard things like nuts. But there are plenty of other ways to get the protein your body needs.

Protein shakes are always an option. Fish and shredded chicken are healthier than steak and are also easy to eat. You can shred chicken into a burrito bowl with rice, guacamole, and a little cheese. Eggs are also a soft source of protein.


Luckily there are plenty of TMJ friendly dairy foods out there. There are a lot of soft cheeses you can use, like brie and goat cheese. Yogurt is also a healthy snack that’s easy on your jaw joint

As you can see, there are plenty of options for eating healthy with a TMJ disorder. You don’t have to let TMJ pain get in the way of your health goals.

What About an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Eating soft food isn’t the only adjustment you can make to your diet. You might also want to consider an anti-inflammatory diet.

Studies have shown that certain foods help reduce inflammation. Of course, this diet alone won’t completely treat your TMJ pain. But it can help when combined with other treatments. The key is consistency. In order for this diet to be beneficial you need to stick with it long term.

There are specific groups of foods that can work with your body to control inflammation and reduce pain.

Antioxidant rich foods protect your body from free radicals, which cause disease and inflammation. Fresh fruits and several vegetables are packed with antioxidants.

Soft foods that are rich in antioxidants include:

  • Spinach
  • Cooked Sweet potatoes
  • Avocados
  • Berries

Omega-3 fatty acids are also helpful. Omega-3 fatty acids can actually stop inflammation from forming.

Omega-3 foods include:

  • Salmon
  • Plant oils
  • Eggs

Certain spices also help reduce inflammation. You can try finding recipes with turmeric and ginger. Drinking a cup of lemon ginger tea every morning can also help.

Eating Healthy with TMJ Pain is Possible

We understand how hard eating with TMJ pain can be. A lot of your favorite, healthy foods, like apples and carrots, make your jaw hurt more. But the truth is eating healthy with TMJ pain is possible. You just have to make some small adjustments to your diet. By eating soft, nutritious food you can help your body stay healthy and give your jaw joint a break at the same time.

TMJ disorders – Symptoms and causes. (2018, December 28). Mayo Clinic.

Burke, D. (2019, March 14). Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders. Healthline.

Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD). (2021, August 8). Johns Hopkins Medicine.

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