When Food Drives a Wedge Between You and Your Teeth
You enjoyed that popcorn you ate at the movies last week. But the enjoyment is gone now that a husk is stuck firmly and painfully between your tooth and gum. Some foods, such as popcorn, are notorious for getting stuck in the teeth. When the particles cannot be easily removed, food impaction―the forceful wedging of food or other foreign material between the gum tissues and teeth—may occur.
Teeth or implants with large spaces between them are susceptible to food wedging. Receding gums, whether from aging or gum disease, can also cause gaps between the teeth and gums where food may become trapped. Faulty implants or crowns can be guilty as well.
Food that remains wedged over a period of time can become impacted, leading to pain, inflammation and difficulty chewing. Left untreated, food impaction can have very serious consequences. Inflamed tissue is less resistant to bacteria and can allow more debris to become entrapped. Over time, an infection can develop and cause further destruction of gum tissue and bone. The ultimate result could be tooth loss.
You need to see us right away for a thorough evaluation if you suspect impacted food, particularly if inflammation has already set in. In addition to a clinical examination, we will probably take an x-ray to confirm the diagnosis of food impaction, after which we will design a treatment plan.
Treatment usually involves irrigation of the area, often with a warm saline or antiseptic solution. Should all food particles and inflammatory matter not be removed during irrigation, we will continue debris and plaque removal using periodontal instruments, a procedure much like having your teeth cleaned. If the impaction has been caused by a weakened implant or crown, we may need to replace the restoration. We may prescribe antibiotics to treat any infection.
By maintaining meticulous dental hygiene, you can keep your teeth and gums healthy. And healthy teeth and gums resist food impaction.