Why Can’t I Chew Better

“You know, I can’t chew my food as I used to,” my new patient said. “I used to be able to chew anything that I want. Why can’t I chew as well now?”If that’s happening to you, here are some of the reasons why you may not be able to chew as well as you used to:

  1. You are wearing partial or full dentures. At one time you had teeth that were firmly attached to bone. Now you have teeth that are floating on a ridge. So the foundation for your teeth isn’t nearly as firm as it used to be. 
  2. Your teeth don’t meet. And you say, “Of course my teeth meet.” Do this experiment. Cut a piece of thin cellophane into a strip that is about ¼ to ½ inch wide and about three inches long. Now place that cellophane between an upper and lower tooth that meet each other and bite down. Try to remove the cellophane. If it stays firmly in place, those two teeth are meeting. If the cellophane slips out easily, then that pair of teeth are not meeting. Do the same exercise for each pair of teeth. If you find that only a few teeth are meeting, that could be a problem. 
  3. You are missing too many teeth. 

Ideally, every tooth should be in contact. You see, we have major groups of muscles that are dedicated to closing our mouths and chewing our food. The force from those muscles is supposed to be taken by 28 teeth, fourteen pairs of teeth (16 pairs if you have wisdom teeth). Let’s assume that only seven pairs of teeth are actually meeting.  That means that each tooth is taking twice the force that it was designed to take. The teeth that do contact may have too much mechanical stress, resulting in mobility or fractures of these teeth.

So take the test. If you pass, great! If not, find out what can be done.

Lee N. Sheldon, DMD