Recently I was suffering from severe gum swelling in my tooth! My gums were sore and they hurt very bad. Other than being irritating, it was impossible to chew from that side. I eventually found out my teeth were sticky on the side that I wasn’t chewing from. Now, I have a double trouble, not only do I have swollen gums but also sticky teeth which I don’t know what it might lead to. Totally lost, what do I do now?
- DentOp Patient
Through my years in practice, I have seen many cases where people have one dominant side of chewing.
Why do we tend to chew from one side?
It is believed that right handed individuals tend to chew more from the left side and vice versa. This is a normal behavioural pattern and generally does not lead to any severe dental problem.
Reasons that can cause pain while chewing, lead to the adaptive response of preferentially chewing from the other side and avoiding the side where the problem is present.
Dental issues that cause pain, like an infectious swelling of the gums or cavities in the teeth are the reason why we start chewing from one side.
Multiple missing teeth on one side are another reason.
Immediately after tooth extractions, it is recommended to avoid chewing from that side for a few days to promote healing.
All these reasons are temporary and once the infection/ swelling is treated and/ or the missing teeth are replaced, the person can chew normally from both sides.
Thus, initially being a requirement, if continued for prolonged periods of time, constant chewing from one side can lead to severe dental issues.
What happens if you constantly chew from one side?
Chewing is a natural process of keeping the teeth clean. Having more fibrous foods helps in cleaning the surface of the teeth and avoids the teeth from becoming sticky.
The stickiness on the teeth is due to the deposition of bacterial colonies. These bacteria are the main reason for gum diseases and tooth cavities.
If you avoid chewing from one side, either due to some dental issues or extraction, the teeth on the side you aren’t chewing from will feel sticky if you run your tongue on it (you could even try it yourself) within a few hours. This is one more reason you should fix your dental issues as soon as they arise. The longer you wait, the more you get in the habit of chewing from one side and this causes the side you are not using for chewing to become vulnerable to more dental diseases, as that side is not been cleaned naturally by food.
The effects of prolonged chewing from one side include
1. Deposition of tartar on the non-chewing side
2. Increased tooth cavities in the non-chewing side
3. Loosening and irregular movement to the teeth on the side which isn’t being used for chewing
4. Asymmetry of face
5. Pain in the ear
6. Stress related diseases in the joint connecting the lower jaw to the skull
7. Soreness of the face on the side that is used for chewing
8. Reduced mouth opening
What is the treatment?
Well! It starts with being aware about how you chew? Next time when you eat observe which side are you using more. Even though using one side preferentially during chewing is very common, it is recommended to chew equally from both the sides for a good balance in the forces that are applied during chewing.
If you had a recent extraction know the best oral hygiene practices that can avoid tartar to deposit on the remaining teeth on that side till the wound heals enough to start chewing from that side again.
If you have missing teeth, replace them with Implants or a bridge, whatever best suits your situation.
The basic idea is to be aware that you have a preferential side of chewing, and correct it as soon as possible. Also, it is essential to maintain adequate oral hygiene by using various hacks till the issue isn’t fixed.
Chewing from one side might seem to be a very small issue, but if not treated in time can lead to serious diseases including those relating to the joint, which might eventually require surgical interventions. It is thus important to identify this habit and correct is as soon as possible