Chewing Difficulties: 4 Common Reasons You Can’t Chew Food

woman touching her cheeks teeth discomfort
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  • Difficulty chewing food is a common problem, affecting around 40% of adults.
  • Jaw joint injury or disease (TMJ Dysfunction) can cause pain and difficulty opening and closing the mouth properly, making it challenging to chew efficiently.
  • Poor dental hygiene or problems with teeth can make it difficult to bite into food effectively.
  • Damage to facial nerves can lead to difficulty chewing due to paralysis or weakness of the face.

Have you ever experienced difficulty chewing food? If so, you’re not alone. Research shows that approximately 40% of adults struggle with chewing difficulties at some point in their lives due to various underlying causes. This article will explore four common reasons people have trouble chewing and what can be done to address them.

Injury or Disease of the Jaw Joint (TMJ Dysfunction)

The jaw joint, known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull. When this joint is injured or diseased, it causes pain and dysfunction of the jaw muscles and joints. This makes it difficult to open and close the mouth properly, affecting your ability to chew food efficiently. TMJ dysfunction can occur due to various factors such as trauma, genetics, arthritis, muscle strain, misalignment of teeth, and teeth grinding (bruxism).

Risk Factors for TMJ Dysfunction

Anyone can develop TMJ dysfunction, but certain risk factors increase your chances of developing this condition. These include genetics (some people have genes that make them more prone to TMJ problems), age (older adults are more likely to experience TMJ problems than younger people), grinding your teeth (especially during sleep), and having braces or dental appliances fitted.

Treatment for TMJ Dysfunction

Treatment typically involves lifestyle modifications, such as improving your posture and avoiding any behaviors contributing to your pain, physical therapy exercises designed specifically for you, and relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga.

Issues with Teeth

xray sample of decaying tooth

Poor dental hygiene or teeth problems can make it difficult for you to chew food properly. Missing teeth can create a gap between the upper and lower sets of teeth, making it difficult for you to bite into food effectively. Tooth decay also weakens teeth making them susceptible to breakage when biting into hard foods like apples or nuts. When this happens, tooth loss may occur, significantly reducing your ability to chew correctly.

Dentists often recommend dental implants, which provide a strong foundation for replacement teeth, making it easier to chew and bite into food. The benefits of dental implants include improved chewing and speaking, a more natural-looking smile, and better oral hygiene.

Damage to Facial Nerves

Damage to facial nerves can also lead to difficulty chewing food. Facial nerve damage is often caused by stroke, head injury, brain tumor, or Bell’s palsy—a condition characterized by sudden paralysis of one side of the face. Damage to facial nerves can cause weakness or paralysis on one side of the front or both sides, making it difficult for you to move your lips and mouth properly when trying to chew food.

Types of Facial Nerve Damage

Facial nerve damage can be divided into two categories: peripheral facial paralysis and central facial paralysis. Peripheral facial paralysis occurs when the seventh cranial nerve (the facial nerve) is damaged due to trauma or illness. This type of facial nerve damage is often temporary and can be treated with medications such as steroids or Botox injections.

Central facial paralysis, on the other hand, is caused by injury or disease affecting the area of the brain responsible for controlling movement in the face – usually stroke or multiple sclerosis (MS). Central facial paralysis is usually permanent but can be improved with specialized physical therapy exercises focusing on strengthening weakened muscles and enhancing coordination.


Treatment for central facial paralysis may include physical therapy exercises to help strengthen weakened muscles and improve coordination, speech therapy to help re-learn how to speak correctly after suffering a stroke or MS attack, acupuncture for pain management and relaxation purposes, psychological counseling for emotional support during the recovery process as well as biofeedback training which helps patients gain control over their emotions through relaxation techniques.

Dry Mouth Syndrome

uncomfortable feelings in the mouth

Dry mouth syndrome occurs when saliva production decreases due to certain medications (antihistamines), health conditions (diabetes), or tobacco usage, leading to difficulty swallowing and eating solid foods. Saliva plays a vital role in lubricating your mouth during eating so that your tongue and other muscles involved in chewing can move freely without any pain or discomfort while breaking down and swallowing solid foods such as rice or vegetables.

No matter what’s causing your difficulty chewing food, seeking medical advice from a doctor is always recommended so that they can diagnose your condition correctly and recommend treatment options accordingly. Do not let chewing difficulties affect your quality of life. Seek help today for a healthier and happier tomorrow.  ​

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