When Is Food Under The Gums An Emergency?

Posted on: 19 November 2017

Getting food caught under your gums can be painful and messy, and while there is a lot you can do yourself to solve the problem, sometimes you need the help of a dentist. The real question is knowing where that line is between something you can handle yourself and something that needs professional guidance and tools. There's no set line that each side obeys, but there are signs that a mere annoyance is actually something more serious.

Floss and Fingernails

Your first go-to strategies are dental floss and your fingernail. For most foods, gently flossing around the nearest tooth is enough to remove whatever it was. It may help to use a little mouthwash after everything is out, and be careful brushing the area over the next few days. But do brush your teeth still. That will help keep the area clean, of course.

For solid food bits that won't break apart, like the bits of popcorn kernels that always seem to wedge themselves in your mouth just out of reach of your tongue, you may be able to coax them out with your fingernail. Wash your hands with soap and water, and gently drag the exposed piece down. Don't yank it out; just carefully move it away. Brush your teeth and use mouthwash afterward.

Blood Amount

Whether you've just removed the food or can't reach it, look for bleeding that won't stop. If you are bleeding noticeably, contact a dentist immediately. A little bit of blood that quickly stops isn't a real problem, though you should monitor the area over the next few days to ensure that it's healing well. But blood that won't stop is a major concern and requires a trip to the dentist.


It's always possible that a little bit of food was left behind or an infection started. If you notice the area starting to swell more or if it becomes tender (or if it simply doesn't get better from where it was before), that's a sign you need to get professional help. There are emergency dentists who can help you if you start to really notice problems over a weekend or holiday.


Even if the area seems otherwise fine, if you still have pain after a day or so, get the area checked.

Getting food caught in your gums is common and is normally a cinch to take care of, but occasionally it can escalate. Try to chew slowly to avoid anything getting shoved up into your gums, and keep the phone number of a good emergency dentist on hand just in case. For more information, check with a company like Family 1st Dental.