A dentist explains three surprising reasons why you continue feeling food stuck between your teeth despite repeated flossing and not being able to locate the food with a fingernail.

What can be causing that incredibly annoying feeling of something stuck between your teeth?

You swear to the moon that nothing’s there after aggressive flossing and even poking around with a fingernail in an attempt to find some shred of meat or fruit skin.

You can’t see anything either, after having spent too much time inspecting the area where it feels as though a stubborn piece of food or tiny seed is trapped.

“We’ve all been there — you’re having a meal or just finished, and you get something stuck between your teeth,” begins Jarri Amini, DDS, a general dentist who runs myprivatedentist.com, which helps people find dentists and gives dental advice.

“Time to get out the floss. But occasionally, even once you have flossed and removed the food, the feeling of having something stuck still remains.

“You’re sure you’ve cleaned thoroughly enough, so what could be going on? There are a few explanations.”

What’s causing that stuck food feeling between your teeth? Three possible causes.

Dr. Amini explains, “The most common cause is your gum — in the area between the teeth — may have become swollen.

“When food debris and bacteria irritate the gums, they become inflamed and increase slightly in size.

“The swollen gum can often give the impression that there is still food stuck.

“Unfortunately, continual flossing of an area like this can make this worse as the gum becomes more and more irritated.

“The best course of action here is to leave it a day or so, brush as normal and it should resolve.

“On other occasions you may have a loose filling.

“Patients are often aware when a filling falls out completely, but may not realize when a filling becomes loose or dislodged. 

“If a filling separates from a tooth but doesn’t come out, it can become wedged in between two teeth.

“This can feel very similar to having food trapped.

“If you have fillings in an area where you have this feeling of food being stuck, it’s worth getting them checked by a dentist, especially if it’s a recurring problem.

“Loose fillings can lead to further dental decay as bacteria builds up underneath and cannot be cleaned away easily.

“Finally, food debris may have been pushed into the gum, causing inflammation. 

This is common with small and sharp fragments, such as sharp crisps or popcorn kernel skins.

“It can be difficult to remove with floss, and you may need to see a dentist who can use a scaler or tweezers to carefully remove the offending debris.”

Dr. Amini is based in the UK and has been practicing all aspects of dentistry for 10 years. My Private Dentist facilitates connections between patients and dentists, improving patient experience by making dentists and their highly skilled services more accessible across the country.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 


Top image: Shutterstock/diy13