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What to eat when suffering from TMJ

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Anyone who has ever suffered from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) will cringe at the memory of it. Eating a hamburger could bring tears to a person's eyes from the sharp pain in the jaw bones. The idea of eating an apple is laughable. Chewing gum is not an option. Even soft, fluffy items like croissants aren't worth the struggle. And fried foods may as well be nonexistent while dealing with the disorder.

The thought of eating at all turns into more of a chore than enjoying food. But there are ways to help ease breakfast, lunch and dinner by using these tips.

  • Cut food into small pieces instead of trying to take big bites.
  • Avoid opening the mouth wider than half an inch. (This is about the size the food bites should be.)
  • Don't eat any hard foods or food with crust.
  • Opt for boiled and baked foods because they're easier to chew.
  • Apply a hot, moist compress to both jaws (directly in front of the ear) for 10 minutes before and after eating.

What is TMJ?

According to both Mayo Clinic and Web MD, scientists have not been able to narrow down a cause or a cure for why TMJ starts or stops. The temporomandibular joint is the hinge joint connecting the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull, which is located in front of the ear on each side of the head. These joints allow people to talk, chew and yawn easily. The muscles surrounding this jaw joint control the position and movement.

Pain from TMJ initially may resemble that of a toothache so seeing a dentist is usually the go-to response. The problem with going to see a dentist is if TMJ is at its most sensitive, even opening the mouth too wide won't work. TMJ patients physically may not be able to put the teeth clenching devices inside of their mouths in order for the dentist to take X-rays, and risking doing so could lead to TMJ getting worse and lasting longer. However, dental professionals can reasonably identify the difference between a legitimate tooth issue and TMJ.

When someone suffers from TMJ, they can physically feel these muscles moving. Grinding and clenching teeth, dislocation of the disc between the ball and socket, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, and jaw tightening from stress seem to be connected to the disorder. However, none of these issues automatically lead to TMJ, and someone who does none of these could still end up with the disorder on a one-time or continuous basis.

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research confirms that TMJ is more common in women than men. The verdict is still out on whether TMJ has a direct connection to female hormones.

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