What to Do When Something’s Stuck Between Your Teeth

What to Do When Something’s Stuck Between Your Teeth

It happens to everyone at some point — a popcorn husk, a piece of steak, or a celery string gets caught between your teeth and doesn’t come out. While it’s not necessarily painful, you have a constant feeling of tightness that won’t go away until you dislodge the food.

And if you let it stay there, it can harbor bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay.

Here are some practical tips from our team at OK Tooth to help you unseat that chunk of food. And if it won’t come out, we can help at our office in Midtown Manhattan, New York. 

Why does food get stuck in your teeth?

Certain foods are more likely than others to get stuck in your teeth. For example, seeds and nuts that don’t dissolve and break down with saliva can wedge in between your teeth. Stringy foods are also classic culprits, as the fibers work their way between your teeth.

But if you’re having an ongoing issue with stuck food, especially if it’s in the same location over and over again, you may have an issue that needs our attention. Here are some of the most common oral health problems that make it easier for food to get stuck.

Open spaces

Gaps between your teeth are perfect places for food to nestle in and get stuck. We can tighten up those spaces with veneersbonding, or crowns to eliminate the problem. 

Gum disease

Gingivitis and periodontitis, two forms of gum disease, can create pockets of space between your teeth and gums — the ideal place for food to get stuck. We can treat your gum disease so food has nowhere to hide.


Cavities and tooth decay damage the enamel of your teeth and create nooks and crannies where food can lodge. We can clean out the decay and place a filling in the hole to prevent food from sticking and to preserve the health of your tooth.

Tips for getting food unstuck from between your teeth

Whether you have one of these oral health conditions or you simply have something stubbornly wedged between perfectly healthy teeth, here are a few things you can try to safely remove it.

Swish and rinse

You’ve probably instinctively used your tongue trying to dislodge the food, but sometimes the task just needs force of a different kind. Often, swishing water around in your mouth is all it takes.


Brushing your teeth may dislodge the stuck food as the bristles sweep into the crevices.


Floss was invented to get rid of food and bacteria between your teeth, so now is its time to shine. Run some floss through the area and pop the food out. If the floss slides easily past the piece of food, tie a small knot in the floss and try again. The added thickness may do the trick.

Use a toothpick

Whether you grab a wooden toothpick at a restaurant or you use a dental pick at home, the narrow tip is a great tool for loosening stuck food. 

If your teeth are too tight for floss, you can use the pick in between the two teeth near the gum line as a wedge. Push it in gently, just far enough so it stays in place. Leave it there for a couple of minutes, and then remove it and try flossing again. This may create just enough space to allow your floss to do its job.

Come see us at OK Tooth

If you have a piece of food or an object caught between your teeth and those at-home tips didn’t work, it’s important to come see us as soon as possible. We offer same-day emergency care, and this certainly qualifies.

If the object or piece of food is merely an annoyance, you can schedule a regular office visit, but if you have something wedged that’s causing pain or bleeding, it requires urgent care.

We use professional tools to dislodge whatever’s caught between your teeth, and we examine your teeth and soft tissues for possible damage. This allows us to recommend treatment for any oral condition that may have led to the stuck object and ensure that your teeth and gums are healthy moving forward.

To schedule an appointment or inquire about emergency dental care, call us at 212-651-4121. You can also book an appointment using our online scheduling tool.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Do Wisdom Teeth Have to Be Removed?

To pull or not to pull — that’s the question. Most people have their wisdom teeth removed, but not everyone has to. Get the final answer about wisdom teeth extractions here.

My Child Has a Fear of the Dentist: How Can I Help?

Foot stomping, head shaking, tightly clamped lips, and full-on tantrums are just a few signs that your kid might be scared of a dental visit. If this sounds familiar, we have some practical tips to help your youngster overcome dental anxiety.

Help! My Teeth Are Yellow

Yellow teeth can make you look older and may convey that you don’t have good oral hygiene. Today’s modern teeth whitening systems can help. Here’s what they can and can’t do.

Are You Brushing and Flossing Correctly?

If you’re just shoving your toothbrush in your mouth and hoping for the best, you could be wasting your time and harming your oral health. Find out if you’re making these common brushing and flossing mistakes.

Does My Child Need Sealants?

Teaching your kids how to brush and floss is a rite of passage — but is it enough to keep tooth decay at bay? Find out how sealants can give their molars extra insurance against cavities and whether your kid needs them.

5 Problems That Veneers Resolve

You love that you got your mom’s eyes and your dad’s sense of humor, but you're not so pumped about the smile imperfections you inherited. What can you do? Check out veneers — the quick, easy, and permanent way to fix many smile problems.