8 reasons you should not turn a blind eye to food impaction

How often do you feel the fibre in your meal stuck between your teeth? How often do you use a tooth pick to remove food lodged between your teeth? If your answer is in positive to these questions, then this is a must read for you.

Food impaction is the forceful wedging of food into the gums by the chewing pressure in your mouth. Food lodgement can happen between teeth into the gums. However, food can also be forced into the gums towards the cheek and tongue. Food impaction is a common cause of infection in the gums.

Why does food impaction occur?

Normally, the forceful wedging of food is prevented by the integrity and the location of the teeth with their position in the jaws and also the intact shape of the teeth. When all the teeth are present in the mouth, they form a good contact relationship with their neighbouring teeth. This is called as ” proximal Contact “. An intact, firm proximal contact relationship prevents forceful wedging between the teeth. The absence of a contact or presence of an unsatisfactory proximal relationship is conductive to food impaction.

What are the causes of food impaction?

Plunger cusps

The teeth wear off due to normal chewing forces. Then the normal shape of the tooth is replaced by a flattened surface. Such a change in the shape of teeth causes the opposite tooth to force the food into  the space between the teeth. Such cusps of teeth that force the food between the teeth are called “plunger cusps”. A similar effect by plunger cusp is seen when the position of the teeth are shifted due to a missing tooth.

Excessive anterior overbite

In this condition, we see the upper front teeth are way below the normal level. Hence, the bite creates a forceful pressure of the upper front teeth on the lower front teeth. Forceful wedging of food is seen in the lower front area and a varying degree of gum infection on the inner side of the upper teeth.

Lateral pressure from the lips, cheeks and tongue

Pressure from the lips and cheek can force food between the teeth and cause it to remain there. However, this is more common in a pre existing gum disease, where the gum is already receded.

So why should you be worried!?

Food impaction serves to initiate gum diseases and aggravates existing gum conditions. The damage caused by food impaction are

Feel pressure between teeth

You can feel as sense of pressure and the urge to dig the material out from between the teeth. When you use a tooth pick or any other sharp object to clear the impaction, you are actually causing more damage to the gums. How deep the food is lodged is not clear to you and hence you may end up going deeper into the  gums with your tooth pick. This leads to further deepening of the gap and the cycle continues.

Vague pain that radiates deep in the jaw

When you cannot clear the food that remains  between the teeth, it acts as a source of nutrition to the deep seated bacteria. This leads to infection in the deeper layer of the gums leading to a constant dull pain and bad breath. This makes further chewing more painful and difficult for you.

Foul smell and taste

Particles of food remaining can cause gum inflammation, bleeding gums, foul smell and taste in the involved area. As the bacteria begin their activity on the food remnants and cause infection, the toxins released by the bacteria give out a foul smell and cause an altered taste sensation.

Gum recession

The reduced gum levels causes sensitivity in the teeth. This in turn gives a longer tooth appearance and can be an aesthetic concern.

Abscess formation

Abscess formation in the gums is common with food impaction. Collection of the pus forms an abscess, which subsequently applies pressure on the nerve. Such a condition leads to pain and bad breath.

Extrusion of teeth

Varying degrees of infection in the gums can lead to an altered position of tooth in the affected area. Such altered positions  leads to premature contact with the opposite tooth, the end result being pain and sensitivity.

Loose teeth

Destruction of the supporting bone and subsequent loosening of the teeth. You can even lose a tooth.

Tooth root decay

Cavities in the root of the teeth is a common feature. When the food particles are lodged deep inside the gums, the damage to the roots of your teeth will be easy and quick.

How do I remedy this condition?

  • Whenever you notice food lodgement between your teeth, do not use a tooth pick. Try to floss the area clean. Visit your dentist to get a through evaluation. Your dentist will help you clear the space and guide you on good oral hygiene practices.
  • Do warm salt water rinses to heal the inflammation. Your dentist will prescribe an anti bacterial mouthwash in cases of severe infection.
  • Your dentist will do a series of x -rays to detect cavities or bone loss between teeth. Any decay between the teeth should be restored immediately.
  • If you have any missing teeth in your mouth, discuss with your dentist the options for tooth replacements.
  • Malaligned teeth that is causing food impaction can be rectified by braces or orthodontic treatment. Talk to your dentist  about this. You can get an appointment scheduled with your orthodontist for the same.
  • If you have pre existing gum conditions, you periodontist (gum specialist) will be able to discuss the treatment options to you.

Early detection of any of the oral conditions and regular dental check ups can save you from losing your teeth.