TMJ's Impact on Nutrtition

Eating and drinking are enjoyable activities that positively impact an individual’s quality of life and are also necessary for maintaining good nutrition.

The pain and jaw dysfunction associated with TMJ disorders can make chewing and swallowing food challenging. TMJ patients who also have eating disorders face even more challenges. How and what you are able to eat can influence your nutritional and health status – an aspect that is often overlooked by both patients and health care providers.

The TMJ Association asked patients their opinion on this topic. Here are a few comments:

“…Eating fruits, veggies, and health foods tend to be very hard on my jaw; I can get a headache just from eating an apple or a few carrots. I would much rather eat mashed potatoes and not hurt…”

“…There are days I am so hungry, but I know the price I will pay if I ‘chew’ the wrong foods…”

“…My daily food choices are very limited, due to the possibility of my jaw locking up while chewing crunchy or chewy foods…”

TMJ Nutritional Guide

The TMJ Association developed a nutritional guide, TMD Nutrition and You, specifically for people with compromised oral function to help them maintain a healthy diet in spite of their oral disability. Click here to download a free copy of our booklet!

Ongoing Research

Despite the pain and functional limitations commonly seen in Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ) affecting a person’s ability to chew and swallow, there is very little research on the relationship between TMJ, diet and nutrition. 

“While nutritional modifications are often a consequence of the “soft diet” component of most TMJ self-management programs, little evidence has addressed the benefits and adverse effects of addressing nutritional needs” (National Academy of Medicine Report on Temporomandibular Disorders).

To address these questions, a study, Persistent Temporomandibular Disorders and Dietary Changes: A Cross-sectional Survey, was begun in 2019 by a team of researchers at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom in collaboration with The TMJ Association. We thank the TMJ patients who participated and are pleased to share some preliminary results.

The aim of the study was to understand the impact of TMJ on diet and nutrition, which can lead to evidence-based guidelines for making healthy dietary choices. In total, 93 individuals drawn from 11 different countries completed the nutrition study’s patient questionnaire, with 70% from the U.S. Approximately half of those who completed the questionnaire went on to complete daily diet diaries; but only half of these completed diaries over the three consecutive days requested. The mean age of participants was 50.7 years old, most of whom were women. Over 95% had been diagnosed with a TMJ disorder by a healthcare professional.

Among the preliminary findings:

  • 40% of all participants had undergone surgery
  • The majority of cases had multiple surgeries
  • Of all surgical interventions, closed surgery (such as arthrocentesis) was most common
  • Most had surgery on both the right and left TM joints
  • Over 75% of participants reported that they modify their food preparation because of jaw joint pain
  • 72% cut their food into small pieces
  • 4% and 40% boiled or mashed their food, respectively
  • The majority of respondents had received professional treatment for their jaw pain
  • Simple symptomatic advice (e.g. hot or cold compresses) was most common, followed by splint therapy and physiotherapy
  • 65% of participants received medications for their jaw pain
  • Less frequent was dietary advice
  • Least reported was a referral to a nutritionist

Data analysis is ongoing and the final results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.