Something To Chew On: 11 Foods To Avoid If You Have Jaw Pain, From An ENT

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Cropped Photo of a Woman's Face

Jaw pain can be caused by a multitude of factors, and right now tension is triggering that pain for many people. Whether it's lack of sleep, teeth-grinding at night, or teeth-clenching during the day—those habits can make something subconscious (like chewing) seriously painful. 

One of the best ways to manage that pain is by including softer foods in your diet, ear nose, and throat (ENT) doctor Shawn Nasseri, M.D., tells mbg. To help us choose what we chew wisely, he shares foods to avoid and what to opt for instead, among other management plans for jaw pain. 

 What should I avoid eating?

"If you have jaw pain, the main thing you should do is avoid hard or chewy foods," Nasseri says. Foods that tend to be tough on the jaw include:

  1. Tough meat
  2. Raw carrots
  3. Corn on the cob
  4. Chewy candies
  5. Gum
  6. Nuts
  7. Pretzels
  8. Hard bread
  9. Apples
  10. Chips
  11. Ice

Along with those 11 tough-to-chew foods, you should probably steer clear of anything else that's difficult to eat, to prevent the jaw from overworking and locking.

If you don't want to completely change your diet as your jaw recovers, simply try limiting a few and chewing slowly. "Make sure you are enjoying your meals and not crushing through them," Nasseri advises. 

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What should I eat instead?

Softer, easier-to-chew foods are easier on the jaw and allow it to rest rather than go into overdrive. "If the pain is really bad, foods like yogurt, pastas, scrambled eggs, smoothies, and steamed vegetables are great as they don't require too much—if any—chewing," he says. 

Additional soft foods that give the jaw a break include mashed potatoes, soups, bone broth, and beans.

Other tips for managing jaw pain. 

Aside from avoiding hard foods and opting for softer choices, Nasseri recommends applying warm heat packs to the affected area, taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories when necessary, and sleeping with a nightguard if you grind your teeth. "Reduce your stress and get plenty of rest," he adds. 

As long as they don't trigger pain, gentle jaw exercises may also be beneficial. Exercises include keeping the tongue in the middle of the upper jaw while repeatedly opening the mouth, relaxing the jaw muscles, doing chin tucks, and slightly moving the jaw from side to side.  

Bottom line.

If you've noticed difficulty and pain while chewing, your jaw may need a break. Consider incorporating softer foods into the diet, and keep your stress levels in mind, as they may be the cause of the pain. If pain does not subside or you're concerned about the symptoms, Nasseri recommends consulting an ENT, physician, or a dentist specific to temporomandibular disorder (TMD) issues.

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