What Happens When Food Gets Stuck In Your Teeth?

What Happens When Food Gets Stuck In Your Teeth?

Dr Sandeep Patel takes a look at the tooth decay process.

The fact is that whilst most of us do clean our teeth reasonably diligently, twice a day, only a small minority apply the same regularity when it comes to flossing, with many of us never using it at all.

Failing to floss though, is asking for trouble as failure to remove food that gets stuck between the teeth is a recipe for tooth decay, as well as gum disease.

The decaying process

Although we may attempt to remove any larger pieces of food that gets trapped in the spaces between our teeth, we may barely even notice smaller ones which can remain there for some time. Brushing is essential of course, but this often does not clean effectively between the teeth.

As food particles break down, they provide a food source for the bacteria within our mouth. This causes them to multiply and, as they metabolise the sugars produced by decaying food, they produce acids which start to eat away at the enamel on our teeth. Although our teeth remineralise under normal circumstances, to replenish enamel that is lost through the normal eating process, the speed at which these bacteria grow means that there is insufficient time for this to happen effectively and enamel will start to become compromised. It is at this stage that small cavities start to form.


A dental cavity starts off very small and then gets larger if not treated. It can actually take several years for a cavity to be fully formed, which is why seeing your Greenwich dentist every six months helps to prevent large cavities from forming. As the cavity becomes larger and eats away at the enamel, the bacteria will eventually reach the dentin layer underneath it. This is a softer material than enamel and the decaying process is then likely to speed up.

Once the bacteria reaches the dentin layer, you are more likely to experience toothache due to the porous nature which enables the nerves to be affected more easily.

Root canals and beyond

As the decay continues, it can affect both the soft tissues and the inner part of your tooth where the roots are contained. Abscesses may form and you are likely to be in a significant amount of pain. A root canal procedure may be used to attempt to save the natural tooth or alternatively, the tooth may need to be extracted. As most people will be in significant discomfort by this stage, even the most nervous patient is likely to seek treatment. As infections can spread further into the body and potentially threaten your general health, you should always contact the Confidental Clinic in the event of any dental problem.

Understanding how a tooth decays does not prevent it from happening and you can only really do this by taking responsibility for your own oral health. The most essential ways to do this are by:

  • Restricting the amount of tooth harming food and drinks that you consume
  • Brushing regularly, both morning and night
  • Adding dental floss to your routine if you do not already do so
  • Seeing your dentist every six months for a check up
  • Ideally, see the dental hygienist, also every six months or so

If you do these things, a lot of cases of tooth decay could be avoided, but where it does occur, the tooth can be filled using a smaller filling than would be the case if you neglect your dental visits.

To arrange an oral health check, or if you have concerns about your teeth or gums, please call the Confidental clinic in Greenwich on 020 8858 1422.