Why Do My Teeth Hurt When I Bite Down?

Man experiences tooth pain after biting into cookie

Biting down and feeling tooth pain can be alarming, especially when you aren’t expecting it. Tooth sensitivity caused by exposed dentin is one culprit for this type of pain.1 However, there are other reasons your teeth might hurt when you bite down. If you notice pain in a tooth when you bite down, it could be a sign that something’s wrong. Read more to find out what might be causing your tooth pain and how to treat this type of discomfort. 

Causes of Tooth Pain and Sensitivity

If your tooth hurts with pressure or you feel tooth pain when biting down, you’re probably wondering what’s causing the pain. There are a few different factors that can cause pain when biting down, including having sensitive teeth, cavities, and malocclusion.

Sensitive Teeth

Although sensitive teeth can be caused by several different factors, one cause of tooth sensitivity is worn down enamel or receding gum tissue.1 When the underlying layer of your teeth becomes exposed, the tiny channels in your teeth’s roots allow stimuli to reach the nerve center of your tooth.2 Hot, cold, or overly acidic foods can result in pain when they hit the nerve center.2 If your teeth hurt when you bite down, it may be a result of sensitive teeth.

Cavities

Although the signs and symptoms of cavities vary based on their extent and location, sensitivity to touch is one possible symptom.3,6 A cavity is a small hole in your tooth.6 In addition to sensitivity to touch, other symptoms and signs that you might have a cavity include:3,6

  • Spontaneous pain
  • Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking
  • Visible holes or pits in your teeth
  • Brown or white discoloration

Tooth Abscess

Another potential cause for pain when biting or chewing? A tooth abscess.4 Tooth abcesses are caused by an untreated bacterial infection and can occur at different regions of the tooth.4 A tooth abscess is a more serious issue than others on this list, but it is still treatable.

Malocclusion

Malocclusion refers to the improper alignment of your upper and lower teeth.5 Malocclusion can cause severe pain when biting or chewing because of the sudden, unbalanced pressure.5 There are several causes of malocclusion, including hereditary, lost teeth, and ill-fitting dental fillings.5

Not Your Teeth

It’s possible that your tooth pain or sensitivity might not be caused by your teeth at all. A sinus infection can cause tooth pain. Your largest sinuses are above the back teeth of your upper jaw and the roots of your upper teeth are near the sinus cavity.7 As a result, inflammation in your sinuses might cause you pain in nearby teeth.7

Treating Tooth Pain

If your teeth hurt when you bite down, talking to your dental care provider can help you find the right solution to your pain. Your dental care provider will be able to determine if your symptoms are a result of teeth sensitivity, or something more serious, like a cracked or damaged tooth. Depending on the cause and severity of your tooth pain, you may need treatment like a root canal.4 However, your tooth pain when biting down may only be a sign of sensitive teeth, which can be treated at home.1

Finding Relief at Home

 If your dentist determines that sensitive teeth are the cause of your pain, you can try these at-home treatments to find relief:1,2

  • Limit irritating foods. Avoiding foods that might irritate your sensitive teeth is important. Wait until hot foods or beverages cool down and use a straw for very cold beverages. Acidic foods like citrus fruits, carbonated drinks, and wine should be consumed in moderation, as they can remove small amounts of enamel over time and lead to sensitive teeth.
  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth twice a day with a desensitizing toothpaste that contains stannous fluoride or potassium nitrate can protect against sensitive teeth. Gently brush using a toothbrush with soft, rounded bristles.
  • Avoid grinding. If you grind your teeth, ask your dental care provider about a mouth guard. Teeth grinding can cause sensitivity and even fracture teeth.

To learn more about what causes tooth sensitivity and how to treat it, check out other articles from the Sensodyne website.

Source Citations :

  1. Sensitive Teeth. Mouth Healthy. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/s/sensitive-teeth. Accessed 2/24/22.
  2. Dentin hypersensitivity. National Institute of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3927677/. Accessed 12/21/21.
  3. Tooth decay. National Library of Medicine, MedLine Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/toothdecay.html. Accessed 12/21/21.
  4. Abscessed Teeth. American Association of Endodontists. https://www.aae.org/patients/dental-symptoms/abscessed-teeth/. Accessed 12/21/21.
  5. Orthodontic Treatment. National Institute of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519547/. Accessed 7/15/21.  
  6. Cavities. Mouth Healthy. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/c/cavities. Accessed 2/24/22.
  7. Can a sinus infection cause a toothache? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acute-sinusitis/expert-answers/toothache/faq-20058299. Accessed 2/24/22.