I’ve been thinking about seeing a TMJ dentist because I have jaw pain that just doesn’t ever seem to go away. I do get periods of relief, but I haven’t been able to tie it to anything. When it flares up, it’s terrible and I can’t eat anything at all- especially in the mornings. A friend of mine said that it’s diet-related, and that if I just go on a whole-foods diet, it will get better. I’ve been trying that for the last week or so, but to no avail. Do I need to stick with it longer or should I book an appointment with the TMJ dentist? — Heather
There’s little doubt that a whole foods diet is great for most people, but where it differs is in what it actually helps with. Problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) are not believed to be brought on by diet issues. Generally speaking, it’s believed that the pain comes from the nerves being stretched or from cartilage problems. Pain can be brought on my sore muscles, injury, strain, and other issues.
Your friend is not totally wrong about diet. However, it’s really more about the strain on your sore jaw when you eat certain foods. For example, if you’re on a whole foods diet and you eat a carrot, the pressure, grinding, and biting force needed to break down the carrot is going to make the irritation worse. The key is to avoid foods that can trigger or exacerbate a problem, and you might not always catch things that could cause a problem. Like breads with seeds and nuts, carrots, celery, and crisp apples. You’d also want to avoid chewy things like bagels and gum. Giving your jaw a chance to rest should help. You may also get relief from an anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen or by using warm compresses.
You mentioned that your pain is worse in the morning. This suggests something is happening overnight to make it worse, and the likely culprit here is nighttime grinding. You can see a general or TMJ dentist to have a night guard made. It will cushion your teeth, so there’s not so much pressure and grinding happening while you sleep.
Switching to a whole foods diet isn’t going to solve this one- especially if you’re eating raw veggies and crisp fruits. Go with soft nutritious foods, book an appointment with a general to TMJ dentist for the night guard, and try using some home remedies to settle the irritation while you wait for the appointment.
This blog is sponsored by Dr. Stephen Doan. Find out more about the services he provides by visiting his La Jolla cosmetic dental website.