Difficulty Chewing Food: Causes and Solutions

Difficulty chewing food

If you have difficulty chewing, it could be due to several different factors including weak, broken down, or missing teeth. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to address this issue right away. Proper chewing function is necessary for nutrition and overall health and wellness. In this informative article, we’ll explore:

  • Statistics regarding chewing problems in men and women
  • Common reasons why chewing may be difficult
  • Dental treatment options to address chewing problems
  • Foods to incorporate into your diet

Chewing Difficulties: Statistics Among American Adults

A research study by the National Institutes of Health found that difficulty chewing is more common in women. However, the risk for these issues increase with age among the male population. The study indicated that the older the individual, the more compromised their natural dentition becomes. When these problems arise, individuals are more likely to make unhealthy food choices, which affect overall health and quality of life. This study also found that when all natural teeth are missing, chewing difficulties are increased by at least six times.

Common Reasons for Difficulty Chewing

There are many reasons why patients may have chewing problems. Some of the most common include:

  • Tooth loss   As mentioned above, this is one of the most common reasons for chewing issues in patients of all ages.
  • Dental decay   When cavities are left untreated, the decay permeates the enamel and eats away at the underlying tooth structure. As the decay moves closer to the pulp of the tooth, discomfort increases, making chewing more difficult.
  • Gum disease   In the early stages, gum disease is not typically painful. However, in its advanced phase, it can cause tenderness and pain. Furthermore, if the gums recede, the tooth roots become exposed, making the teeth even more sensitive.
  • Teeth grinding or TMJ   Pain in your jaw joints can make it hard to bite down hard. Sore jaw muscles from clenching and night time tooth grinding can make it hard to chew. Constant bruxing can also make the teeth sensitive.
  • Dry mouth   As we age, natural saliva production slows. There are also certain medications that can exacerbate these issues, making chewing much more uncomfortable.
  • Oral cancer   Difficulty chewing is one of the most common side effects of oral cancer. If you notice warning signs such as white or red patches, swelling, or hoarseness, see your doctor for a screening immediately.
  • Side effects from cancer treatments   Chemo and radiation therapy may alter the lining inside the mouth. This can also affect the salivary glands and reduce natural saliva production. In addition, these therapies can interfere with the balance of good and bad oral bacteria. This increases the risk for tooth decay and gum problems.
  • Stroke   Following a stroke, it’s not uncommon for patients to experience chewing problems. Stroke can cause a reduction in saliva production. Some patients may not be able to feel the sensation of food on either side of the mouth.

Dental Treatments to Address Chewing Problems

Of course, the treatment recommended for you will depend on the specific cause of your chewing problem. If you start to have issues chewing food properly, it’s imperative that you visit your dentist for a proper diagnosis. In the sections below, we’ll discuss some of the most common treatments for chewing difficulties.

Custom restorations when you have difficulty chewing food

Damaged or decayed teeth are a common source of your chewing issues. Restorative dentistry can help rebuild your smile and oral health. Minor cavities can be addressed with dental fillings. More significant damage may require dental crowns, bridges, or other custom restorations.


Individuals who are missing many or all of their teeth, can benefit from partial or full dentures. These appliances have been used to replace teeth for decades and are available in traditional or implant supported versions.

Dental Bridges

Adjoining missing teeth can be replaced with a custom dental bridgework. This restoration is milled from a single block of high quality dental material. There are two crowns at the ends with prosthetic teeth in between them. Once bonded permanently into place, a bridge fills in the space in your smile and restores chewing function.


Dental implants are considered when you loose a tooth. Dental implants not only replace the crowns of missing teeth, they also replace the roots as well. This is significant because implants stimulate the jawbone the same way that natural teeth roots do. This tells the body to supply the surrounding bone with nutrients that will keep the jaw strong and healthy. Implants can replace a single tooth, several teeth, or an entire dental arch.

Gum Therapy

If gum disease is the cause of your chewing difficulties, immediate action is required to keep the infection from worsening. Mild cases can be treated with a deep dental cleaning. More advanced cases will require more advanced treatment by a gum specialist to eliminate bacteria and restore oral health and function.

Switching Medications

If chronic dry mouth is the primary cause of your chewing difficulties, speak with your primary care physician about switching medications. Sometimes altering your current meds or dosages can reduce the risk of dry mouth and alleviate irritating side effects.

Foods to Incorporate into Your Diet

In the meantime, it’s crucial that you maintain proper nutrition, even if you are experiencing chewing problems. Registered dietitians recommend that you choose foods that are healthy but easier to chew and swallow:

  • Soft veggies like squash, sweet potatoes, and eggplant
  • Steamed or grilled veggies, including peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots
  • Moist foods such as apple sauce and  yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Soft fruits such as pears and bananas
  • Fish

Avoid crunchy dry foods that require heavy chewing.

Are You Having Difficulty Chewing Food?

If you are experiencing chewing problems, reach out to your dental health care team as soon as possible for a consultation. To learn more, feel free contact us online or call us at 847-234-0517.