Can A Toothache be Cured by Adjusting Your Bite?

Absolutely!  As an example of how, let me tell you Michael’s story:

“Ever since I had that crown done, it hurts to bite down!”

Michael first came to see me not because of a dental problem, but because he was taking over our office computer network in the fall of 2010.  However, as he was resolving some network issues, we got to talking about the office, the kinds of things we do, just general stuff.  And at one point, he mentioned that he hadn’t been to a dentist in about 3 years, because the last time he went, the doctor cemented in a crown, and it had been hurting him ever since every time he bit into food.  No sensitivity to cold or heat, just biting down, especially into chewy foods.

CALL Your Dentist if it Hurts to Bite Down After a Filling or Crown

Naturally, I told him the first thing he needed to do was to call the dentist and have them check it out, but he refused, saying that he just didn’t like their office.  So naturally, I suggested he let me take a look.  Finally, he agreed.

On exam, the crown looked perfectly good!  The edges (we call it a “margin”) were well-sealed to the tooth with no gaps, the shape was good, color was a pretty good match.  THEN I used the piece of blue marking paper (yes, it is kind of like carbon paper, if you’re curious) to have him bite down, which made a mark on the crown where the teeth came together.  The mark was broad and dark, right in the middle of the crown, and all the marks on the teeth in front and behind were much smaller and lighter, which meant he was hitting on the crown much harder.

A Filling or Crown that is “High” Means Every Bite is Bruising Your Tooth

Imagine if someone started tapping their fist against your shoulder.  Not really very hard, but firmly enough that after 5-10 light punches you could feel it getting sore.  But instead of stopping, that someone just KEEPS ON punching you lightly……hundreds or thousands of time.  How much would you bet the shoulder — oops, I mean your tooth! — will hurt?

That’s basically what happens when a filling or crown is a bit too thick on the chewing surface – every single time you bite down, or even worse, if you grind your teeth at night, you are bruising that tooth.  Is it any wonder that it gets sore to touch, and that you start avoiding food on that side?

So what did I do?  I got out that trustly little drill with an ultra fine grit polishing bur, and I reduced the crown right on that spot a little, then had Michael tap on the blue paper again, repeating several times, until he said it felt “perfect!”

Michael’s Toothache was Cured

I next saw Michael a couple weeks after that, when he was back to install some new computer items.  Of course, I asked how his tooth felt, and he said it felt so much better, and now he can chew on that side with no problems or discomfort.  And of course, I felt pretty good for “curing” his toothache with nothing more than a little adjusment to his bite.  😀

By | 2011-11-20T16:55:45+00:00 March 1st, 2011|Uncategorized|12 Comments

About the Author:

My profession and passion are one and the same: I've been a Charlotte dentist since 1999, and if you're in need of a dental office, we'll gladly welcome you. We offer most of the most modern technology available and a unique and broad combination of services. We know the dentist isn't the most fun place to be, but we try to make it the best possible, and since I truly love my job, we aim to offer the best dental care possible.
  • Nallely Paz

    My dentist said I needed a root canal but did not explain .I’m currently 7 months pregnant and I’m wondering if my teeth became sensitive because of that? It only hurts when I bite down or chew chewy foods. Its no sensitive to cold or hot and does not hurt at night. My pain was stronger 2,days ago and I was given penicillin and I think that helping a lot! I currently do not feel pressure on my tooth but still bothers me when I chew. I went to get a second opinion my another dentist and he said I does not look like I need a root canal but I did need a oclussual adjustment . the tooth that hurt was hittiing my the top teeth first than any other my others teeth. This is due to a root canal my prior dentist did , he did the filling for the root canal too high and was giving me an uneven bite. Once he adjusted my bite I could finally close my mouth without pain. However, I’m scared this might now solve the problem ? I really hope it does ! My xray didn’t show any sign of a need of a root canal its tooth #30 . what do you think?:/ if my bite adjustment was the only problem how long would it take so I could finally chew on my right side again?

    • Hi Nallely – please see my response to your comment on the other page, ok? Thanks!

  • Saima Zaher

    Hi, I just wanted to ask some advice. I flossed my teeth one day and I pulled the floss really hard out between two top front teeth instead of gently. The next day, the tooth started hurting. I didn’t think anything of it but the more I was biting on it, the more it was hurting. The tooth is sensitive to hot and cold and the gum is slightly swollen around that tooth. I have been back to the dentist a number of times and she found nothing on the x-ray and she found no decay or anything. I even had my teeth cleaned. I thought it may be a cracked tooth due to the pressure in that one tooth, which she filled but it still has pressure on that tooth and when the upper teeth lean on the bottom teeth, they feel a bit numb at times but is ok when I don’t lean on them and the bottom teeth are a bit sensitive to cold. Could me pulling the floss hard cause my tooth to have moved slightly and the bite gone out of place or could it be a sprained tooth or both or even pulpitis? Thanks

    • Saima, that sounds kind of unusual. A couple quick questions for you: you said that your dentist did a filling on it? How long ago was that? Do you know if the cavity was very deep, or was it sensitive at all before the filling was done?

      In general, there’s no way that floss should be able to cause that kind of discomfort or pain, so my suspicion is that the pain starting 1 day after flossing hard is merely a coincidence, not the cause. Since you have discomfort when the teeth are touching, it does seem possible that the filling is too high and bumping hard on the bottom teeth. I would certainly suggest asking your dentist to check the bite and adjust it if necessary.

      Beyond that, I really can’t offer any advice, as I don’t have enough information.

  • am

    one follow up question: is it possible that its a sinus infection gone bad? ive just noticed light pain in the sinus area/cheek area.

  • am

    I have the same exact problem as mark. I went back 2 weeks after the crown to get it adjusted. It still hurt, but i didnt go back until this morning. Last night, the pain was so bad, that I couldn’t eat dinner. Even drinking water hurt. By this morning, the pain was so bad that it was pretty much unbearable, and extended to the front and back of the tooth, and even to the opposite teeth. I went in this morning, and had it re-adjusted. I’m home now, and in excruciating pain. Oxycodone is taking the edge off, but when it wears off, it hurts real bad.
    My dentist said its bruising. He took an x-ray when he was in, and said that nothing looked “off”. My questions…
    – can the x-ray tell if its a nerve?
    – if in fact, it is bruising, how long will it take to heal? The pain today is a lot worse than yesterday, and I worry its going to get worse.

  • Leon Goudikian

    After a bite adjustment, how long will it typically take for the pain to start to be reduced? Thanks…

    • Leon – good question. Here’s what I tell my patients:

        Within 24 hours, you should notice significant improvement. Maybe 100%, but probably not; hopefully at least 50%.
        If within 24-48 hours there is NO improvement, then there’s a bigger problem that needs to be investigated.
        If you get that initial improvement, that’s a sign we’re on the right track. If it gets 50-60% better but then stops, it means we’re on the right track but just need to do a little more. If the bite is WAY off, it might take a couple times to let things settle out.

      I hope that helps!

      • Leon Goudikian

        Thanks very much for your quick response. It is helpful to me.

  • Great article Chip! Can’t count how many times simple occlusal adjustment has resolved the worst of tooth pain.

    • Thank you, Ed, and you’re right – nothing like making sure the crown/filling/bridge actually fits into a person’s bite the way it should!