Why Am I Having Pain Chewing?

Posted on Friday, September 8th, 2023 | 1,503 views

Person chewing food

There could be several reasons why you are feeling pain or having problems chewing your food. In the following, we explain the reasons and how to solve them.

Chewing is an essential bodily function that helps us break down food but when you’re having problems chewing properly or experiencing pain, it can put a damper on the whole experience and cause a lot of aggravation. 

While it may seem like a simple and natural task, chewing problems are not uncommon and they’re caused by various factors.

Let’s look at the causes and explore the options at your disposal to solve them.

Typical Causes of Chewing Problems

Dental Malocclusion

One of the leading causes of chewing problems is dental malocclusion which refers to misaligned teeth and/or improper bite patterns. Misaligned teeth can lead to other oral health issues too, such as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) and periodontal disease.

Dental malocclusions can have various causes including genetics as inherited traits like jaw size, tooth shape, and tooth size, environmental factors, childhood habits, dental trauma, early primary tooth loss, or poorly fitted dental restorations.

There are a few treatments for dental malocclusions that can correct teeth and jaw alignment such as braces or clear aligners, the use of specialized appliances, space maintainers, dental restorations or in severe malocclusions, oral surgery.

Tooth Decay and Tooth Loss

Another common issue that causes chewing problem is rooted in dental caries, tooth decay and missing teeth. The effects of tooth decay can lead to cavities, which if not treated in a timely manner, can cause pain and sensitivity to your gums and your teeth, making it quite difficult to chew and eventually quite painful.

During the first stages of tooth decay – especially if you’re not regularly having checkups with your dentist – you may not even know some of your teeth are decaying until it becomes virtually impossible to eat. If the decay is so severe, only an extraction can help which dentists try to avoid because it could cause further chewing issues.

Periodontal Disease

Different degrees of Periodontal disease (gum disease) can also cause problems biting and chewing. When someone has Periodontal disease they have an infection in their gums, ligaments, and the bones that support the teeth – all crucial areas responsible for chewing.

At the initial stages of the diseases where Gingivitis sets in, the gums start experiencing inflammation and bleeding. When Gingivitis is ignored, it progresses into periodontitis, gum recession, loose teeth, tooth loss and significantly impacts one’s ability to chew properly.

Periodontal disease must be treated combined with professional cleanings and improved at-home oral hygiene practices.


TMD (Temporomandibular disorders) is when the temporomandibular joint – that links the jaw to the skull – is disordered and causes pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles. This disorder leads to difficulties in opening and closing the mouth, and chewing.

TMD has various causes including trauma to the jaw or face, misaligned teeth, teeth grinding (bruxism), arthritis, stress, and excess jaw muscle clenching. In a large number of cases, multiple factors could be contributing to TMD. Identifying the cause is crucial for determining the most suitable treatment approach.

Oral Cancer

Various types of cancer can develop in any part of the oral cavity including the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, palate and surrounding bone. The symptoms related to oral cancer can cause swelling, sores, and lumps in the mouth that can make it painful and difficult to chew. Early detection of oral cancer is crucial.

Diagnosing and treating it involves an array of multidisciplinary approaches tailored to the specific needs of the patient and may include surgery, radiation, immunotherapy and/or chemotherapy.

Post-treatment care may involve reconstructive surgery, speech therapy and nutritional support to restore proper oral function and regular dental and medical checkups will help prevent recurrences.

Potential Solutions to Bite Issues

Depending on the seriousness of your chewing and biting problems, there are several treatments that could work for you. Remember that lifestyle changes can reduce the chances of the problems spreading and becoming worse than it already is.

Orthodontic Treatments

Orthodontic treatments like braces or clear aligners can assist in correcting malocclusion (teeth misalignment) and improve your bite. By realigning your teeth, orthodontic treatments can correct the chewing function and reduce the pain associated with misaligned teeth.

Dental Restorations

There are various dental restoration options that help reduce pain and discomfort while chewing. These include fillings, crowns, and bridges and they involve repairing damaged or decayed teeth and restoring their function.

Crowns reinforce a weakened tooth, bridges can replace missing teeth, and fillings restore the structure and function of decayed teeth by sealing cavities and reducing further damage.

Adjusting Eating Habits

Making small adjustments to your eating habits can be tremendously helping in alleviating chewing problems. You can try cutting your food into smaller pieces, chewing slowly, alternating between both sides while chewing and easting softer foods. Softer and easier to eat food will help alleviate discomfort during the chewing process.

Readers note: adjusting your eating habits won’t cure any underlying issues you may have, so make at least one appointment with your dentist to examine any underlying issues.

Practice Proper Oral Hygiene

Practice proper oral hygiene to prevent bite issues related to tooth decay and periodontal disease. You should develop a consistent oral care routine that includes brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride based toothpaste, daily flossing and using an antibacterial mouthwash to help control bacteria levels. Also have regular checkups and cleanings to check for any emerging dental problems.

By prioritizing your oral health you’ll minimize further aggravating the underlying cause of your chewing pain until you can be properly examined by a dentist.

Physical Therapy and Exercises

If you have TMJ disorders or issues related to your jaw muscles and joint function when you eat, physical therapy and targeted exercises can help. A trained physical therapist can design a personalized program that will help you strengthen your jaw muscles and improve joint mobility.

Your dentist can also provide further guidance on dental appliances or treatments, such as occlusal splints and orthodontic interventions which may actually address underlying issues contributing to TMD and enhance your overall jaw function.

Dental Implants

If it hurts when you chew because of tooth loss, tooth decay, periodontal disease, or other trauma, dental implants are one of the best solutions to restoring chewing function. A dental implant is an artificial tooth that is surgically inserted and provides improved chewing function. It enhanced aesthetics, preserve bone structure and acts exactly like a natural tooth. 

If a tooth extraction is required, there are still options available to save your smile including custom dentures or dental implants although you must remember that the goal of maintaining your oral health is to be able to avoid these problems altogether.

Occlusal Splints

Occlusal splints (bite guards) can reduce biting and chewing pain> They improve joint mobility and enhanced the ability to chew more comfortably. They’re custom-made oral appliances that alleviate issues like malocclusion, teeth grinding (bruxism) and TMD. They provide a stable surface for the teeth to bite against and help to evenly redistributes the force exerted during chewing. 

It’s Time for a Chat with Your Dentist

Chewing problems can be caused by many different reasons, but gaining insight into the underlying causes is the best way to start solving them.

If you live in Brantford and what to find out why you have pain chewing and how to fix it, reach out to us today for a consultation with Dr. Pio Modi DDS, BSc. He and his team are at the ready to help you and want to encourage you to get started!

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