OBJECTIVES: Chewing ability is an important measure of health-related quality of life, yet few studies have examined predictors of chewing difficulty in community-based samples. This study describes longitudinal patterns of chewing difficulty and identifies predictors of chewing difficulty onset. METHODS: The Florida Dental Care Study (FDCS) was a longitudinal study of oral health and related behaviors. Interviews and a clinical exam were conducted with a sample that included persons who had at least one tooth and were aged 45 years or older (n = 873). The five-item chewing index of Leake (1990), with minor revision, was the outcome of interest. RESULTS: Approximately 21 percent of baseline participants reported chewing difficulty and about 34 percent reported difficulty during the study. Having infected or sore gums, loose tooth, loose crown or bridge, toothache pain, lower numbers of opposing pairs of teeth, dry mouth, and being female were significant predictors of incident chewing difficulty. CONCLUSIONS: Self-reported oral disease and tissue damage and toothache pain were strong predictors of decline in chewing ability. Additionally, women were identified as a high-risk group for incident chewing difficulty. Future research should elaborate further the pathways through which these factors affect oral function.