It Hurts When I Chew: Tooth Sensitivity and Chewing

A woman holding her hand to her mouth in painIf you experience tooth pain and sensitivity when chewing, you might have a dental problem. Tooth sensitivity when chewing can be a sign of an oral health issue, like tooth decay or a root canal infection. Restorative dentistry treatments are available to repair dental damage, alleviate tooth pain, and restore oral health. To find out which treatments are right for you and learn more about tooth sensitivity and chewing, schedule a consultation with Wilmington, DE dentists Jeffrey J. Emmi, Laura Dougherty, and Jeff Bartoshesky.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity When Chewing

Tooth sensitivity, which can feel like a sharp, sudden pain, is fairly common when the teeth are exposed to changes in temperature and doesn't always indicate an oral health problem. On the other hand, tooth sensitivity when chewing is often a sign of a potentially serious dental issue and should be examined by a dentist as soon as possible. Some causes of tooth sensitivity when chewing include:

  • Enamel erosion: Enamel erosion can be caused by exposure to acids in food and drinks, or the enamel may become worn as a result of brushing too hard. Enamel erosion can lead to tooth sensitivity as the protective outer layer of the teeth is worn away.
  • Tooth decay: Tooth decay and dental cavities can cause tooth sensitivity when chewing as the enamel and dentin layers of the teeth dissolve. This can allow food and bacteria to reach and irritate the internal structures of the teeth, causing pain.
  • Root canal infection: Root canal infections may be one of the biggest causes of tooth sensitivity and pain when chewing. A root canal infection can occur as a result of tooth decay or a dental fracture. With a root canal infection, the internal structures of the tooth, including the tooth's nerve and blood vessels, become infected. This can cause moderate to severe pain when biting or chewing as the tooth's nerves, the tissues responsible for dental sensitivity, are directly impacted.
  • Abscess: Abscesses can develop as an oral infection, like a root canal infection or gum disease, spreads. Abscesses are painful pockets of pus that can collect around the tooth's roots and may extend through the side of the gums. Abscesses may cause pain when pressure is applied to them, as with chewing or biting.
  • Gum recession: Gum recession can occur as a result of gum disease or brushing with too much pressure. As the gums recede, delicate areas of the teeth may become exposed, increasing the risk of tooth decay and tooth sensitivity.
  • Structural damage: Structural damage, like a dental crack caused by an injury or a loose or missing filling, can also lead to tooth sensitivity when chewing. Structural damage can allow bacteria to reach the inner nerves or cause the damaged tooth to press on the nerves, both of which can cause pain while chewing.

Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity

Treating tooth sensitivity requires a thorough dental exam to determine the underlying cause. Once a cause is pinpointed, treatment can be tailored to address the patient's unique needs. Some treatments that can help alleviate tooth sensitivity when chewing include:

  • Root canal therapy
  • Dental fillings
  • Dental crowns
  • Tooth extraction 

Which Treatment Is Right for You?

If you suffer from tooth sensitivity when chewing, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with our team at Smile Solutions by Emmi Dental Associates to find out which treatments are right for you.