Why Do My Teeth Hurt When Biting Down? 7 Possible Reasons

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort from your teeth when you bite down, you’re not alone. Many people experience tooth aches and pains. There are several reasons why you may be experiencing these symptoms.

You may feel sharp pains when biting down due to cavities, tooth decay, or issues with fillings. Emerging wisdom teeth, recessed gums, and teeth grinding can also be culprits. Swap to a toothpaste for sensitive teeth, and contact your dentist if you experience pain for more than a few days.

Although tooth pain is fairly common, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it! The issue can be easily treated if you know what to look for. Being aware of the warning signs and symptoms is the first step to developing a practical treatment plan.

7 Reasons Why Your Teeth Hurt When Biting Down

Asian woman having problem with toothache

Here are seven reasons as to why your teeth might hurt when you’re eating or chewing. While we all know cavities can be the culprit, it’s good to know what other things may be in play here so you can better diagnose what you’re experiencing.

1. Cavities

Cavities are one of the main culprits to tooth pain and sensitivity. Cavities are permanently damaged spots on your teeth that develop into tiny holes. Cavities that cause pain are usually affecting a nerve and should be treated by a dentist.

2. Cracked and Decayed Teeth

Cracks and decayed teeth are similar to cavities. However, these issues are often harder to diagnose because hairline fractures are typically not visible on the standard 2D X-rays taken at the dentist. Typically, a 3D X-ray must be taken to diagnose a fracture.

If the damage is deep enough, cracks can let bacteria into the inner layer of your teeth. This can cause infections and sudden, sharp pains when you bite down.

3. Issues With a Filling or Crown

You may be experiencing pain when chewing due to a filling, crown, or cap. If a filling or crown sits too high, it can cause pain when you bite down.

This is because the pressure from your upper and lower teeth isn’t distributed evenly. You may notice painful sensations right after a dental procedure or when the anesthetic wears off.

4. Emerging Wisdom Teeth

Emerging wisdom teeth can also cause toothaches, pain, and discomfort. Wisdom teeth are the last set of teeth to develop and typically grow in awkward positions. These factors result in intense pain when you chew or bite down. You may have to get your wisdom teeth removed to alleviate any symptoms.

5. Gum Disease and Recessions

Gum disease and recessions don’t always cause tooth pain when biting down. However, these issues can result in sensitivity and discomfort when pressure is applied. This is because the sensitive roots of your teeth are more exposed. You may experience sharp, throbbing pain when eating or drinking certain foods.

6. Poor Dental Habits Like Grinding and Jaw Clenching

Dental habits such as teeth grinding and jaw clenching can also cause pain. Grinding your teeth throughout the day or while you sleep can wear away at your enamel and teeth, causing cracks in the process. If you clench your jaw when you’re stressed, you may experience dull toothaches or even headaches.

7. Dental Abscess

Dental abscesses and infections can cause pain when you bite down. A dental abscess is an uncomfortable buildup of pus typically caused by a bacterial infection. This pus can lead to swelling inside your tooth or gums, which sometimes may appear as a pimple on the gums. When the infection is building up in the jawbone, it exerts a lot of pressure and it’s looking for a means of release.

The pain from an abscess or infection often comes in intervals. This means your teeth may feel fine one week and terrible the next. You may also notice a bad, bitter taste due to the pus leaking out of the area.

These issues can often go unnoticed. However, if left untreated, an infection can spread and become more severe. Typically, dental abscesses and infections are treated with a root canal.

How to Stop or Fix Tooth Pain When Biting Down

Beautiful girl having dental check up in dental clinic

You’re not alone if you’re experiencing sudden or sharp pains when biting down. These are common symptoms and dental issues. It may seem hopeless, but there are a few things you can do to avoid tooth pain when biting down.

Use Over-the-Counter Painkillers

You can utilize over-the-counter painkillers like Ibuprofen, Motrin, or Advil (all on Amazon) if you’re experiencing pain from a cavity or cracked tooth. These medications can help reduce inflammation, pain, and discomfort. Speak with your dentist and primary care physician to figure out the best treatment options.

Use a Cold Compress

Using a cold compress may ease pain and swelling. You can use a cold compress by applying a bag of ice wrapped in a cloth or towel to the painful location. This method helps constrict the blood vessels in the affected site, reducing discomfort and swelling in the process.

Be sure to apply the cold compress to the affected area for no more than 20 minutes every few hours to ease the pain.

Have Your Wisdom Teeth Removed by a Professional

If you notice your wisdom teeth coming in and you’re experiencing pain, you may need to have them professionally removed. You can also utilize a cold compress or over-the-counter painkillers to manage your symptoms in the meantime. Be sure to contact your dental professional to determine the next steps in your treatment plan.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene Techniques

Practicing proper oral hygiene techniques can help reduce and prevent pain, as well as gum disease. Be sure to brush your teeth regularly using a soft bristle toothbrush like the Nimbus (on Amazon). Soft bristle toothbrushes are easier on your teeth, preventing enamel erosion.

You can also switch over to a desensitizing toothpaste containing potassium nitrate, like Colgate Sensitive Toothpaste (on Amazon). Potassium nitrate can ease pain signals from the nerves in your teeth.

Use a Mouth Guard and Avoid Stress

You can use a mouth guard at night if you are experiencing pain from grinding your teeth. You may have to speak with your dentist to determine the right product. You should take time to relax if you clench your jaw when stressed. You can also utilize a cold compress or over-the-counter painkillers to alleviate symptoms.

Use a Saltwater or Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse

You can alleviate pain, swelling, and bacteria with salt water or hydrogen peroxide rinse. Saltwater can also help remove excess food debris stuck between your teeth. Furthermore, saltwater is a natural antibacterial agent.

Stir a ½ teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water to make a saltwater rinse. Swish the solution in your mouth for up to 30 seconds. Be sure not to swallow this solution.

Hydrogen peroxide can help reduce plaque and symptoms of gum disease. Some symptoms can include soreness, bleeding gums, and inflammation. Use a 3% solution to make a hydrogen peroxide rinse. Dilute the peroxide with equal parts warm water and rinse thoroughly. Do not swallow this rinse.

When To See Your Dentist

You should contact your dentist if you’re experiencing pain and discomfort for more than a few days. If you don’t treat these issues quickly, they can progress into more severe problems.

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