Food Under The Gums: Common, Irritating, And Urgent

It happens to most people -- you realize one day that part of your gums are swollen, usually right at the gumline in between two teeth. This alarming appearance usually has a simple cause: Something got stuck under your gumline and created a lot of irritation. This is not something that will go away on its own, but you may be able to take care of it yourself. There is always the chance that it could need immediate care from a dentist if you don't start healing it now.

What Happened?

In a nutshell, something, most likely a bit of food, got wedged under your gumline as you were chewing. Popcorn bits are notorious for causing this type of problem, but any food can do it. The food can create a bunch of irritation that leads to swelling. The gum doesn't necessarily get infected, or at least not at first, but it can hurt, and the pain can radiate along adjacent teeth. This can happen to even those who floss well, so don't blame your dental hygiene routine. It's truly a random phenomenon.

What Can You Do About It?

In most cases, you can gently floss the food out. Slowly insert floss between the two teeth nearest the swelling and slowly, gently, move the floss around. Move it so that you floss on both sides of the swelling. Do not snap the floss into place between the teeth because that will hurt. Do not be surprised if that area of your gums bleeds a bit after flossing. Rinse your mouth out with water and then antiseptic mouthwash when you're done.

The "food" may not be recognizable when you get it out. In fact, it could look like a glob of plaque. In any event, whatever you can floss out is good.

Over the next couple of days, brush, floss, and rinse well. Continue to baby the area and try not to chew on that side for a day or so.

What Should You Look For?

The swelling won't disappear immediately, but it should start reducing within a day. You might still experience a little bleeding if you brush and floss a few hours after the main "removal," but that should stop happening soon. You should be almost or completely fine within a couple of days.

If you still have pain, swelling, or bleeding after a couple of days, though, contact a dentist immediately. There may be additional food stuck further in, or an infection could have already started. For most people, fixing this type of swelling is quick, but for a few, further dental help is necessary.

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