What happens when food gets stuck in the tiny pockets between your teeth and gums? Do you just floss it out or are there other steps you can take to avoid an infection?
Here’s what you need to know about food stuck in gums, including information on how long it can cause an infection, like gum disease and cavities, and why it’s important to keep your oral health in check.
Food Stuck in Gums
If food is caught between your teeth and gums, it should be removed with dental floss or a clean pick. A small amount of food—less than a quarter-inch thick—is usually easily removed with floss or picks.
If you can’t remove it on your own, schedule an appointment with your dentist. If bacteria from food begins to grow under the gum line and gets into your bloodstream,
You risk getting an infection, which may lead to complications such as cellulitis (swelling), pneumonia (lung inflammation), endocarditis (infection of heart valves), or even sepsis (blood poisoning).
The presence of food for longer than three hours without treatment has been known to have potentially fatal consequences.
What Are Gingival Crevices?
A crevice is a space between two teeth that’s too small for a toothbrush. These areas of your mouth are called gingival crevices, and they are prime candidates for food to get stuck.
If food gets lodged there and remains there for more than three days, it could develop harmful bacteria, leading to serious gum disease and infection.
However, if you keep up with your regular oral hygiene routine—brushing twice daily, flossing every night, and visiting your dentist regularly—you’ll probably be fine (though it won’t hurt to be cautious).
It’s not uncommon for food to become trapped in these areas after eating; however, what happens next depends on how long it stays there. In general, food should only remain in your mouth for about 20 minutes before being swallowed or spit out.
Once it stays longer than that, bacteria can begin to grow and lead to infection. So how long does food need to stay before causing an infection?
When Do They Become Infected?
Food becomes most likely to become infected with bacteria when it’s trapped in your mouth for a prolonged period of time. This can happen if you forget to floss or brush for a day or two.
While food trapped between teeth may not seem like an urgent issue, as it ages, it breaks down and becomes more prone to becoming infected.
Gum disease is a serious problem; you should try your best to avoid getting food trapped between your teeth and should contact your dentist immediately if you notice food caught between your teeth.
Food may remain trapped for a few days before signs of infection appear but, after 24 hours, it is significantly more likely that an infection will occur within 10 days of getting food stuck in your gums—so act now!
What Causes Infections to Spread Through the Body?
When bacteria get into our bodies, they sometimes make their way to different parts of our bodies. How and why that happens is largely driven by how each person’s immune system works.
People with certain genetic markers might be more prone to certain infections, while people with other genetic markers might be less prone.
An individual’s age, sex, and general health are also important factors when it comes to fighting off and recovering from an infection that spreads through your body.
Here’s what we know about how food stuck in gums causes infection.
Diagnosing Gum Disease From An Infection
If you have just undergone a tooth extraction, know that there are many things that you must do in order to prevent problems with your gums.
If a food particle is stuck between your teeth, it is possible that bacteria from the plaque on your tooth may get into these microscopic wounds and cause an infection.
The chances of developing periodontal disease increase if you have other dental work done like crowns, root canals, or extractions.
Prevention is key when it comes to periodontitis so brush twice daily and floss at least once daily to ensure that food particles don’t remain lodged between your teeth for an extended period of time.
You should also see a dentist as soon as possible after undergoing tooth extraction due to inflammation or swelling of the gums.
Treating Periodontal (Gum) Disease After Tooth Extraction
So how long does it take for food to become infected after being caught between your teeth, like a chicken wing or potato chip?
That depends on several factors, such as what type of bacteria are present and whether your immune system is functioning normally. The bottom line: You’re unlikely to get an infection from leftover food that you accidentally left in your mouth.
But you may experience soreness and discomfort from gum disease if you have existing periodontal problems. If you do notice any redness, pain, or swelling around your tooth socket (or jaw) after a tooth extraction, see your dentist right away.
He or she will likely clean out any remaining food and prescribe antibiotics to prevent infections from developing.
Preventing Tooth Loss Due to Infections
Food, generally speaking, is meant to travel from our mouth through our esophagus and into our stomach. But what happens when food travels up our esophagus and gets lodged in between two teeth in our upper arch?
Food that gets lodged between two teeth and stays there for more than a few hours may start to rot and corrode your gum tissue—but it’s not just that which is dangerous.
Food that remains in place for too long will begin to putrefy and release toxins into your bloodstream. If these toxins aren’t flushed out of your body by vomiting or diarrhea, they can find their way into other tissues within your body, including those of vital organs like your heart or brain.
The longer food remains trapped between two teeth, the greater risk you have of developing an infection as well as potentially serious complications such as heart failure or even death!