Food impaction is when a small piece of food becomes forcefully lodged between your teeth, and it can be surprisingly uncomfortable. How exactly can food debris become so strongly trapped, and will you always automatically know it's happened?

Forced Into Place

Most instances of food impaction are simply food that has been forced into your inter-proximal spaces (the gaps between your teeth) by occlusal bite force (the bite pressure applied during chewing). In many cases, you'll feel the piece of food as it presses into your gums, and it may cause considerable discomfort and annoyance. In many cases, the irritant can be dislodged by flossing, or by using an inter-proximal brush.

Dull Pain

Although an uncomfortable sense of pressure can be a clear indication of impacted food, you may not always be aware of the problem, as it can manifest in different ways. Firmly trapped food debris can cause dull pain in your gums, even if you're unaware of the cause. As the piece of food begins to decompose, you may experience a foul taste in your mouth which cannot be reversed by brushing your teeth or freshening your breath (which will also become unpleasant). These warning signs mean it's time to see your dentist.

Dental Assistance for Impaction

A dentist can easily remove impacted food. At home, your options are limited to inter-proximal cleaning (via dental floss or an inter-proximal brush), as attempts to excavate the impacted food can lead to gum lacerations. In addition to removing the irritant, your dentist will closely inspect the affected interdental area to find out why the problem occurred.

Possible Causes of Impaction

You may have an untreated inter-proximal cavity, changing the contours of the two sides of your teeth that directly face each other. Corrosion to your inter-proximal dental enamel (the substance that covers your teeth) may create hollows that can literally snag small pieces of food. Alternatively, untreated gum disease can lead to a deepening of your gingival sulcus, forming what is called gingival pockets in your gums at the base of your teeth. These are caused by your inflamed gum tissues pulling away from your teeth, and creating spaces where minute food deposits can become lodged. Professional dental cleaning should be sufficient to manage this bacteria-induced problem, allowing your gum tissues to heal.

Unless you can easily remove impacted food yourself, it's important to seek dental treatment. You may also seek treatment for mysterious symptoms that turn out to be impacted food. In any event, your dentist can take steps to ensure that food stays unimpacted in your mouth. 

For more info, contact a local dentist