Being a dental hygienist, I discuss with my patients about concerns they may have with their mouths, teeth, and bite issues such as asymmetrical chewing. Dental surgery, missing teeth, and dental pain can cause you to favour one side of your mouth. But is it bad to only eat on one side of your mouth?
Only eating on one side of your mouth can create an imbalance in the jaw muscles, cause excess and uneven wear and force on the teeth, and affect how the teeth bite together. Over time it can change your face shape and profile.
In this post, I will explore and discuss how only eating on one side of your mouth can impact your oral and overall health and well-being. I also touch on how you can try to rectify the issues causing asymmetrical chewing.
Bite into the Truth: One-Sided Eating Consequences
I always examine my patient’s mouths, including their teeth and jaw joints, and ask the patient if they are experiencing any pain or have any issues with their mouth or jaw.
Many people suffer from issues that cause an asymmetrical bite, which drove me to create this resource to help alleviate their pain and seek a solution.
But there are many consequences of only chewing on one side of the mouth, and many are overlooked.
1. Uneven wear on the teeth
When only one side of the mouth does the heavy lifting of chewing, the teeth may wear down more on one side.
However, if chewing is favourited on one side, the teeth can become worn down on that side due to the forces of the teeth coming together and breaking down the food in our mouths.
Uneven wear on the teeth can lead to the forces of the jaws increasing on certain teeth, increasing the risk of chips, cracks, and force on the periodontal ligaments, possibly causing pain and discomfort.
This wear can create an imbalance in the evenness of the bite, which could lead to clenching and grinding as the teeth try to make an even plane with even force distribution.
All these issues can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw and TMJ (temporomandibular joint).
The upper and lower jaws are supposed to come together harmoniously and support each other. We call this “occlusion” in dentistry. Below is a post I wrote about how teeth are supposed to come together and support a healthy occlusion.
2. Pain in jaw and TMJ issues
Pain in the jaw and temporomandibular joint and TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) can all be side effects of only chewing on one side of the mouth.
When chewing, the jaw and surrounding area muscles, particularly the masseter muscles, work really hard.
The muscles will get bigger with consistent use, like working out and lifting weights.
Every time you chew, the muscles on that side of the face are working out.
Clenching and grinding can also contribute to pain in the jaw and TMJ as the teeth try to grind down so they are in a more comfortable position. This causes the muscles to over-work and can cause pain and issues with the bite.
Dental professionals should recommend a nightguard for patients who suffer from clenching and grinding.
Below is essential information for choosing a nightguard for clenching and grinding! Make sure you get the right one because there are many products out there that can damage your bite.
3. Altered facial appearance/masseter muscle growth
When our muscles overwork, over time, they will get bigger. Like training any other muscle, overuse can grow the muscle.
The masseter muscle is a large muscle in your cheek, and when this muscle starts to grow and change shape, it changes your face shape, leading to a more pronounced jawline, more prominent cheeks and an overall less slim line face.
An altered face shape may not be an issue for people, but I want to give the info in case it is.
If your face has altered shape and your masseter muscle is more significant than usual, speak to your dental professional, medical doctor, massage therapist or acupuncturist.
Having a professional opinion that is unique to you is essential to make sure it is safe and effective. One treatment may work wonders for one person and not another. It can take a team and time to create an optimal treatment plan.
4. Decreased digestion
Biting and chewing our food is the very first stage of digestion. Our teeth break up the food into fine pieces, and our saliva helps break down the food.
If chewing is compromised and occurs primarily on one side of the mouth, likely, chewing is not thorough enough.
Chewing the food until it loses texture is a good rule of thumb, so you don’t need to count every bite!
But if you are not chewing for this long, it can make it more difficult for your body to break down the food and absorb all the nutrients the body needs from the food, as well as cause issues in your intestines that can lead to bloating.
5. Increased calculus (tartar) formation and gum disease
Another factor that people often don’t know or realize is that eating helps clean our teeth. When chewing, the food helps to scrape away the plaque (soft deposits of bacteria and food debris) and stimulates the gum tissue.
When one side of the mouth is avoided, that side is more likely to accumulate plaque that calcifies and forms calculus (tartar).
Because of this accelerated rate of calculus accumulation, inflammation of the gum tissue is more likely to arise because calculus attracts more bacteria and initiates the body’s immune response to fight off the increase in bacteria.
I can tell when I am doing an oral exam of my patients when one side of the mouth has more calculus formation, more plaque, and the gum tissue is more inflamed.
I always ask them if they are avoiding one side of their mouth and why.
If you are building up more calculus on your teeth, it is essential to have it professionally removed and maintain regular dental hygiene visits.
Below is a post I wrote breaking down everything that happens in a dental hygiene appointment so you have a better understanding of what happens and the importance of it.
Can chewing only on one side cause facial asymmetry?
Over-using the muscles on one side of the jaw due to chewing only on one side can cause the muscles on that side to grow more. More growth on one side can lead to facial asymmetry because of the imbalance in the facial structures.
By evenly chewing on both sides of the mouth, the muscles get used evenly and will not be overworked.
Causes of chewing on one side and how to chew more evenly
To chew more equally on each side of the mouth, the reason must first be diagnosed. Our subconscious, dental pain, lack of teeth, teeth position, orthodontic treatment, surgery, and parafunctional habits can cause unilateral chewing.
Seeing a dental professional is essential to rule out any issues, such as infections, or devise a plan to replace missing teeth.
It is much more complex than it first seems, as what if your teeth do not bite together on one side at all, and you can only eat on one side?
I put together a comprehensive post that includes why people favour chewing on one side of their mouth and ways to correct each issue. It is linked below.
I hope this information has been helpful to you, and remember to keep up with regular dental appointments if you can!
Have a great day,