What is food packing?
Food packing is when food debris gets stuck in the spaces between your teeth for some period of time, gradually causing your gums in the area to become inflamed. Packed food makes a nice breeding ground for bacteria, and can be difficult to clean. If plaque also collects, it’s only a matter of time until you get a cavity start forming or see progression of gum disease in that area.
Why do I have packed foods between my teeth?
The reason why you get food stuck between your teeth is because the tooth and the one adjacent to it are not close enough. Why would this be the case? There could be a number of reasons that food debris gets stuck:
- A crown doesn’t fit properly
- The contact point of the filling in between the teeth doesn’t meet the other one- could be a bad filling or simply beyond the capabilities of the filling material.
- Shifting of teeth (gum disease)
- Cavities forming in between the teeth
- Chipped teeth
- Broken fillings
Patients with lots of restorations are more prone to it happening because chances of something breaking is higher. So too are people who grind their teeth as this puts restorations (fillings and crowns) and natural teeth under a lot of stress.
What are the symptoms of food packing?
Packed foods in between your teeth can cause discomfort–especially if the stuck food is hard (does popcorn kernel sound familiar?). The gum often aches and feels tender if you can’t clear the offending food with interproximal brushes or floss. Eating can become painful as biting down on the food puts pressure on the gums. You may notice bad breath from this food rotting away in between and bleeding due to inflammation in the area is also common. It is important to have the stuck debris removed as soon as possible because the longer the debris stays on your teeth, the more likely your gums will get irritated and the more sore it will be over time. Most of the time you can do this yourself but if a cavity starts forming there is a place where the food can tuck into and it gets much harder to remove.
What happens when I go to the dentist?
Before any treatment is administered, your Maroubra dentist will first obtain your medical history and conduct a complete oral examination to assess the case. During this time, your dentist will try to determine the location and cause of the pain by checking for any sign of swelling and tooth damage. Your dentist may need to take X-rays and perform other tests as part of the diagnosis. If food packing is due to an ill-fitting crown or deficient filling, the treatment can be redone to make the restorations fit better and make the adjacent teeth touch correctly. Interdental cleaning is critical for food packing. You need to thoroughly clean in between the teeth, removing any wedged food debris. You should be flossing anyway and if gaps between your teeth are a little bigger then use interproximal brushes. The dentist will have better access to get in there and clean it out with their specialist tools.
How can I prevent food packing?
At the end of the day if you have a space you are going to need it fixed or it will continue to happen and problems will result. The basis for reducing the symptoms and damaging effects are to see a dentist, get it sorted and in the mean time, get really good at keeping the area clean:
- Practice correct flossing at least once a day before brushing your teeth.
- Make sure you get any food that wedges out (gently or you will hurt the gum)
- Watch the foods you eat, meat tends to get stuck more easily for example.
- Use interdental brushes, and sticks or picks.
- You can use certain mouthwashes to reduce inflammation e.g. SAVACOL by Colgate if recommended by your dentist.