Tooth pain is a pain in the neck (and the mouth). Sometimes the pain is small, like temporary sensitivity to a cold popsicle or a bite of hot pizza.
But if your teeth hurt when you bite down, it could be an indicator of bigger issues. Here’s what you need to know if your teeth are sensitive to pressure, and what you can do about it.
Why Do My Teeth Hurt When I Bite Down?
The pain from tooth sensitivity can vary in severity, everything from a dull throb to a sharp, piercing pain. Regardless, this sensitivity to pressure and pain when you bite down can happen for a few different reasons, including when:
- Your gums recede from your tooth
- Enamel wears away
- Fillings crack, break or fall out, exposing the sensitive dentin underneath
When the cementum on the surface of the root is worn away, the dentin (the second hardest layer of your tooth, just beneath the enamel) — as well as the nerves and cells in your tooth — can cause pain whenever you bite down or chew food. This can be particularly irritating when you eat hard foods, like apples or almonds.
Your sensitivity may be due to grinding your teeth at night, or eating acidic foods. Changing your diet to cut down on acidic foods like coffee, tea, and citrus may help with your tooth sensitivity.
If you grind your teeth at night, consult your dentist to determine the best treatment option.
Other things that can worsen tooth pain when you bite down include eating lots of hard foods, brushing your teeth too hard, using a hard-bristled toothbrush, and using certain tooth-whitening products. Avoiding these factors could help you find some relief.
When Your Tooth Pain Leads to More Serious Issues
Tooth pain when you bite down could indicate more serious issues, like a loose filling, an abscess, hidden cracks or fractures. There could also be damage to the pulp tissue inside the tooth.
If any of these issues are untreated, they could lead to bacterial infections that spread to other parts of the body.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD)
The pain in your jaw may also be a symptom of inflammation in the joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull. These joints are called the temporomandibular joints, and when they’re inflamed or painful, this condition is called TMJD.
What to Do When Your Teeth Hurt When You Bite Down
No matter the reason your teeth hurt when you bite down, you should contact a dentist for an evaluation. A dentist can provide professional guidance on how to treat these issues before they turn into more serious problems.
Pulp tissue damage
If you have pulp tissue damage, your dentist may send you to an endodontist. Your endodontist will perform a root canal, where they clean out the damaged pulp, and fill and seal the remaining space.
The treatment options for TMJD vary depending on the cause of the pain. Treatments may include:
- A night guard if you’re grinding your teeth
- Corrective surgery
- Pain relievers to help with swelling
- Splints that reposition your jaw
- Stress management techniques to help prevent clenching and grinding your teeth
- Stretches to massage your jaw muscles
- Hot pads or ice to relieve pain
Maintaining a proper dental health routine fights tooth decay and gum disease. Regular visits to your dentist are the best way to manage your dental health and catch small issues before they become bigger concerns.
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