What is a food trap?

Simply put, a food trap is a place in your mouth where food gets stuck. Sometimes it can be hard to feel if we have food trapped, like an embarrassing piece of lettuce between two teeth. Other times it is obvious, like getting an annoying popcorn kernel get stuck between the tooth and gums. Everyone gets food trapped in their teeth sometimes, but when food gets caught in the same place consistently it can cause serious problems.

What causes food traps?

There are many causes of food traps, all of which are treatable:

  • Teeth that are not close enough together can have gaps that can trap food. Receding gums can also cause gaps between the teeth and gums, commonly called black triangles. These gaps are a common spot for food to get trapped. For more information about gaps, including possible treatments, read our blog post on “Unsightly Gaps”.
  • A cracked tooth, or a tooth with a cavity, has a space in the tooth that can trap food. This can be treated with a dental filling.
  • Some dental procedures, such as having your wisdom teeth removed, can leave flaps in the gums that can trap food. Some flaps go away over time, but some may require additional treatment.
  • Improper contact from a filling or crown can also leave a space where food can get trapped. This can be caused by fillings or crowns that were not installed to fit properly, or due to damage.

Should I be worried about food traps?

There is generally nothing to worry about if food gets trapped between your teeth from time to time. However, if this happens regularly it can lead to bad breath, tooth decay, and infection.

All food has bacteria in it, which creates acid when it starts to decompose. If food is regularly trapped in your mouth and left for long periods of time, this acid can wear away at the tooth’s protective coating called enamel. When enamel erodes, it can lead to tooth decay and cavities. Cavities are painful, can lead to hypersensitivity to how and cold temperatures, and can result in the loss of teeth if left untreated.

When should I see a dentist?

For the occasional time when food gets stuck in your teeth, flossing and rinsing after meals can help avoid any adverse effects. However, if food is getting trapped regularly, or in deeper areas in the gums or teeth where floss can’t reach, it is time to see a dentist. Your dentist will be able to diagnose the cause of your food traps, suggest an appropriate treatment, and help prevent any future problems.