Do you have a tooth that hurts every time you eat or bite down on it?

There are specific factors that can cause tooth pain when chewing. Understanding the warning signs can give you a head start on treating the cause and preserving your tooth. More often than not, our Ottawa dentists warn that the pain you feel from biting down boils down to one of seven different dental problems. 

If biting or chewing is causing tooth pain, it’s most likely due to one of these factors:

The Tooth / Crown / Filling is “High”

“Occlusion” is the word we use to describe the way teeth bite together. When the upper and lower teeth occlude properly, the pressure is distributed evenly so that there aren’t any specific areas bearing the brunt of the weight. 

In instances where a tooth, filling, or crown (”cap”) sits too high, it can cause pain when you bite down on it. This sensation is usually most noticeable right after dental treatment is completed and the anaesthetic wears off. The opposing tooth may also hurt, due to the extra pressure exerted on it when your teeth fully engage. 

We can use a special type of marking paper to measure and evaluate your occlusion, making note of any areas that are hitting higher/harder than others. By adjusting your bite, that extra pressure is taken off and the involved teeth won’t feel sore from chewing anymore. 

Large Cavity in a Tooth

Have a toothache or sensitive teeth after eating? Tooth decay (cavities) can leave lingering pain after you eat certain types of food. Many people are sensitive to sweets — whether it’s a flavoured coffee, a breakfast pastry, or even a soda — when they have a cavity. Large cavities can get food stuck in them which can cause pressure and result in pain. 

Since advanced tooth decay can irritate the pulp (nerve) inside the tooth, you can experience painful flare-ups each time you bite, chew, or put food into your mouth. However, it’s important to note that not all cavities hurt. If you feel a rough edge, a possible opening in your tooth enamel, or a strange sensation when you bite down, be sure to schedule an exam with a dentist to have it evaluated to prevent further advancement into the pulp or worse.

You Have a Dental Abscess

When you experience pain with a specific tooth when pressure is being applied, it could be due to an abscess around the tip of the root. This swelling or cyst inside of the bone puts pressure against the tooth, causing pain when you bite or push down on it. 

Abscess drainage and swelling can come and go, with symptoms feeling worse some days and going unnoticed on others. Fistulas — small pimples on the gums — often appear near the tooth and cause a salty tasting drainage to seep out of the area. The only viable treatment for preserving an abscessed tooth is to perform a root canal. 

Cracked Tooth 

One of the most challenging and difficult to diagnose dental conditions is a cracked tooth. More often than not, there are no obvious symptoms other than pain when you bite down on it. If you have a toothache after eating, try to determine if it’s coming from a specific area. Using a special bite stick to see if there is tooth pain with pressure applied at specific points, we can help rule out a fractured root. 

Although severe fractures can show up on dental X-rays, hairline fractures are more often undetectable on the X-ray. Special diagnosis and testing can determine whether the tooth is cracked. 

Periodontal Disease

Any time you have tooth pain when biting down, we want to consider the health of your gums. 

During your dental exam, we will measure the attachment levels around each tooth. Depending on the severity of tissue detachment, you could also be experiencing symptoms of bleeding or swollen gums, spaces between teeth, exposed tooth roots, heavy tartar build-up, mobility and sensitive teeth. 

Nasal / Sinus Pressure or Congestion

The roots of your teeth are situated in close proximity to your nasal sinuses.  Tooth pain when you bite down may not necessarily mean there’s a dental problem. Rather, it could be because the sinuses are inflamed.

Usually, the teeth that are most sensitive are your molars (back teeth) or premolars/bicuspids (the teeth in front of your molars but behind your cuspids/”eye” teeth). Lower teeth are not affected. 

Gum Recession and Root Exposure

Gingival (gum) recession doesn’t necessarily cause tooth pain when chewing, but it can make your affected teeth extremely sensitive if there’s pressure applied to the exposed root. If you’re eating or drinking and food comes into contact with your root surface, you’re likely to feel a sharp pain on that specific tooth. 

Gum recession can be caused by factors like aggressive tooth brushing, trauma, teeth grinding, tooth position and gum disease. 

Don’t Ignore the Signs

Tooth pain isn’t something that just goes away on its own over time. Unlike other types of body aches that improve with rest or an over-the-counter pain reliever, toothaches mean that something more serious is going on inside of your mouth and these pain symptoms shouldn’t be ignored.

If you have a single tooth or several teeth that hurt when you bite or chew, schedule an exam with a Parkdale Dental Centre dentist. Our Ottawa dental team will help you get the answers you need to best care for your smile and keep it healthy for years to come!