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Can an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Help with TMJ Pain?

November is TMJ Awareness month and we thought we’d let you in on this little secret: the foods and drinks you consume can affect your entire body. For years, doctors have recommended anti-inflammatory diets to people who suffer from conditions with high inflammation like arthritis and autoimmune disorders. Temporomandibular joint disorder is another condition that causes inflammation in the jaw, neck, and back. The reason doctors recommend this diet is to reduce inflammation in the body and therefore help reduce pain. Could this magic diet help relieve your TMJ pain?

Anti-Inflammatory Diet including avocado, grains and nuts

What is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

An anti-inflammatory diet is a popular diet that consists of avoiding foods that contribute to inflammation while also eating a diet rich in foods known to fight inflammation. Most dieticians refer to an anti-inflammatory diet as more of a lifestyle than a diet though because you have to stay consistent in order to see the effects.

Several conditions can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet coupled with medications or therapy. These include:

Anti-Inflammatory diets are also helpful for athletes or people who exercise at a high intensity. Eating a low inflammation diet can help expedite the recovery process.

Diseases with chronic inflammation are also some of the top causes of death in the world. Eating a pro-inflammatory diet can increase your mortality risk by 23%.

Not only will eating an anti-inflammatory diet potentially reduce your pain levels, but can also benefit your overall health.

How Does the Diet Reduce Inflammation?

Inflammation is your body’s natural immune response when it’s fighting injury or infection. It sends inflammatory cells to the area and it results in redness, swelling, and pain. If the inflammation lingers and doesn’t go away, the chronic inflammation keeps your body on full alert and can trigger other health issues including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. What you eat can play a huge factor in your inflammation levels. Changing up your diet can potentially lower your inflammation levels better than any type of medication.

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce inflammation in several ways.


One of the types of foods you will eat on the diet are foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from unstable atoms that cause cell damage, disease, and inflammation. Foods rich in antioxidants are fresh fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids are a type of antioxidant and are found in yams, kale, spinach, watermelon, cantaloupe, bell peppers, and carrots. Anthocyanins are another type of antioxidant and are found in berries, red cabbage, cranberries, and cherries.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Anti-inflammatory diets also consist of eating a healthy amount of Omega-3 fatty acids which stop the formation of inflammation and reduce any existing inflammation. Cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, soy beverages, eggs, nuts, seeds, and yogurt are all high sources of Omega-3s. You can also take dietary supplements if needed.


This plan compound prevents inflammation and is found in dark chocolate, berries, herbs, and spices.


Fiber is also another great way to reduce inflammation. Lentils, beans, vegetables, and fruits are all great sources of fiber.

Inflammation and TMJ Disorders

When you have a TMJ disorder, inflammation can occur in the joints. This can result in redness, heat, swelling, pain, and even loss of function in your jaw. Synovitis is when certain tissue around the TM joint becomes inflamed and causes pain with jaw movement. The ligaments surrounding the joint can also become inflamed and no longer support the joint. The other inflammation you can experience with TMJ disorders is rheumatoid arthritis which can cause pain and inflammation in the TM joint.

What Types of Foods Cause Inflammation?

One of the first places to start with an anti-inflammatory diet is eliminating foods that contribute to inflammation. These include:

You should also pay attention to your reaction to eating anything that contains gluten and nightshade plants including potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers. If you experience bad symptoms after consuming either of these, consider eliminating them from your diet. You should also pay attention to the number of carbs you consume. Eating too many carbs can lead to inflammation.

What Should I Eat on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious foods you can enjoy on an anti-inflammatory diet. These foods are known to fight inflammation.

When Will I Experience Results?

You won’t start to notice any improvement in your symptoms for at least a few weeks of staying consistent with your diet changes. Full healing can take up to six months or longer. It’s important to remember to stay consistent and that this is a lifestyle change, not a temporary diet. As a bonus, sticking with this diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease, psoriasis, obesity, and other conditions associated with high inflammation.

TMJ Treatment in Woburn, MA

There is one sure way to relieve your TMJ symptoms and that’s with TMJ treatment. Combining TMJ treatment with an anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce your pain and elevate your quality of life. Don’t rely strictly on a diet to reduce your TMJ symptoms. Contact Divine Smiles in Woburn, MA today to start TMJ treatment. Please call (781) 396-8558 to book an appointment.

By Ryan M. Clancy, DMD, MAGD, LVIF, FPFA, FIAPA | November 10th, 2020 | TMJ

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