Teeth Care

Why Does it Hurt to Chew? Some of the Most Common Issues

jaw hurts while chewing food

For those experiencing dental issues that involve discomfort or pain, few problems are more debilitating than experiencing pain while chewing.

Being able to eat comfortably is a necessity, after all, and having it hurt to chew can have ramifications that go far beyond the basics of dental health.

There are multiple causes for chewing pain, so it’s important to get the diagnosis right. A solid diagnosis leads to effective treatment, and it’s also the only way to determine if you’re dealing with TMJ problems, in which case you may need a mouthguard to help alleviate the pain and fix the problem.

What follows is a list of the most common reasons why it typically hurts to chew, along with an explanation of the basic mechanics behind them. We’ll also add some mouthguard information for those who need it, along with a recommendation for one of the best ones on the market.

defend your teeth against the daily grind graphic

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)Syndrome

Many of the issues that cause pain while chewing have to do with the basics of bite mechanics, and TMJ syndrome is one of the most debilitating.

There are two specific joints that play a role in TMJ, one on either side of the jaw. These joints are designed to function as a hinge, but when they aren’t aligned properly they can cause pain and discomfort, along with a variety of other nasty symptoms.

TMJ can be a complicated diagnosis for dentists, but one of the simplest ways to treat it is by wearing a mouthguard at night, which is often when much of the damage is done.

Dentists may make other recommendations as part of TMJ treatment, but a quality mouthguard made by a company like Sentinel can go a long way toward providing a solution.

Cavities, Crowns and Cracked Teeth

All three of these problems can cause pain while chewing, and they can be difficult for dentists to diagnose as well.

As we all know from our childhood dental experiences especially, cavities can cause pain while chewing, even though not all cavities will hurt. They can be related to TMJ issues in some instances, so it’s important for your dentist to investigate all possibilities when making a diagnosis.

Crowns can cause chewing pain as well, especially if they’re sitting too high after they’re inserted and finalized. The technical term for this is a misaligned occlusion, with occlusion referring to the evenness dentists look for when they analyze a patient’s bite before and after any serious treatment.

A cracked tooth can also cause chewing pain, but this is a difficult diagnosis for sure. Sometimes there are no symptoms when this is the case, but other times the chewing pain will be quite sharp.

A mouthguard may be recommended after all of these procedures as a temporary remedy to diminish the pain, but it really depends on the specific diagnosis and treatment plan.

Dental Abscess

Dental abscesses typically occur around the tooth root, and they can cause pain when biting, chewing or simply pushing down on the specific tooth where they occur. This pain can come and go, but it’s important to pay attention if it comes up, and it’s normally solved with a root canal.

Gum Issues and Periodontal Disease

The state of our gums is usually an important indicator of our dental health, and once again the pain caused by both of these issues may come and go, depending on the severity and the evenness of the bite.

If the problem is related to grinding, which is also known as bruxism, a mouthguard may be part of the solution when dentists formulate their diagnoses and treatment plan.

Nasal or Sinus Issues

Some tooth issues are caused by the proximity of the tooth to the nasal sinuses, especially when these canals become inflamed. It usually affects the molars or the eye teeth, and the treatment may or may not involve specific dental procedures.

If Your Mouthguard is Part of the Solution. . .

If your dentist does recommend a mouthguard, quality, durability and fit matter.

To get more information on Sentinel Mouthguards, please visit our help center for answers to any questions you may have.


sentinel mouthguards author
Ashely Notarmaso

Ashely Notarmaso is the author behind the Sentinel Mouth Guard Blog. She is the CEO and founder of Sentinel Mouth Guards (Founded in 2012) Her long-time work in the dental mouth guard arena and her excellent ability to listen to customer concerns in this often contradictory field has laid the groundwork to explore night guard/mouth guard fabrication in-depth and address real concerns. With the help of her team, she has created a unique fabrication method that promises a great fitting custom oral appliance every time. Amazon’s choice for #1 mouth guard! Visit the online store http://sentinelmouthguards.com

Verified By

medically reviewed by dr lara coseo
Dr. Lara Coseo, (DDS, FAGD)

Doctor of Dental Surgery
Baylor College of Dentistry

Dr. Lara Coseo, (DDS, FAGD) is a 2004 graduate of Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, Texas. Having practiced general dentistry for 13 years, Dr. Lara currently serves as a Professor at Texas A&M College of Dentistry.

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