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I have pain when I bite down, what does that mean?

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

This is one of the most common issues I see in my practice. I feel like I say this in all my writings but . . . there are several causes to this problem. And again, it takes several more questions to get to the root of the problem(no pun intended). First, have you had any dental work done recently? If the answer is yes, it may be a simple bite adjustment. We try our best when we do fillings and crowns to send our patients out with a perfect, compatible bite. We can usually get the bite just biting together perfect, but the other movements you do with your jaw when eating, clenching and grinding are harder to recreate in our chair. Also, our patients are often numb and have been open at least a little while, so they may not be biting exactly the way that they normally would. If this is the issue, it is an easy fix. See your dentist and have them check your bite again and adjust it a little more. Usually the discomfort will resolve fairly quickly. Sometimes patients will have pain when biting down but not on a specific tooth and report pain more on a whole side. Often this is caused by sinus pressure. I have this with allergies and bad colds, and the discomfort can definitely be significant. Other tests would need to be run to rule out other causes though. The last most common is a fracture within the tooth. Sometimes we see fractures in teeth that have never had any work but often they will be in teeth with silver fillings. These silver fillings don’t expand and contract the same as the tooth and are notorious for creating fracture lines in the teeth. We cannot judge the depth of the fracture by looking at the tooth. Sometimes the deep, dark fractures will never bother a patient. Sometimes hairline fractures will become symptomatic. I tend to be pretty conservative in treating fractures. The dentist will test the tooth with a bite stick and test for pain when you let go. Sometimes you will have pain biting down but when the pain increases when you release, we suspect a fracture. It is because biting down will pull the fracture apart and then the fracture snaps back together that causes the pain. In these cases, we will recommend a crown, which is a cap that covers the whole tooth and is able to hold the tooth back together so that the fracture is no longer flexing and causing pain. Look at my blog on fractured teeth for more information on cracked teeth and their prognosis. If you are having pain when biting down, call your dentist and have them evaluate it. With a few tests, usually we can find the cause. If you need a dentist or want a second opinion, we would love to take care of you here at Stauffer Family Dental. We have a practice in Westerville, OH on County Line Rd across the street from St. Paul's.

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