Ask anyone and they'll probably be able to sheepishly tell a story of how they once spent an entire date or meeting with a piece of food or worse, herb, stuck between two teeth. While that situation is embarrassing, the only thing it will damage is your ego. However, if you have what dentists refer to as a "food trap", then your enamel and your gums could be at the mercy of tooth decay-causing bacteria.
If you have noticed that foods, especially things like steak, constantly become stuck between two of your teeth, you have a food trap. Even if it isn't a problem now, it may become one in the future for the following reasons.
Food Traps Invite Bacteria to Dinner
Everyone has had a piece of steak or popcorn trapped between their teeth at one time or another. Not only is it painful but it is annoyingly difficult to remove. However, when two teeth, usually molars, regularly trap food you have a bigger problem on your hands than just pain. Every person has millions of bacteria, most of them good, that live in their mouths.
Some of these bacteria attach themselves to the surface of your teeth, creating a bio-film known as a pellicle. Unfortunately, tooth decay causing bacteria such as streptococcus mutans eventually invade and take over this film. Safely ensconced in the gap between your teeth, they are free to feast on trapped food. This is bad news for your teeth.
Those Bacteria Can Erode Your Enamel
From their safe haven, bacteria are able to feast on the trapped food, multiplying and secreting an acidic byproduct which erodes the enamel surface of your teeth. Even if you manage to remove the trapped food, you may not successfully extract it all. Your oral hygiene efforts may also not be enough to reach the bacteria hiding between your teeth.
If your gap is not treated then, in time and despite your best efforts to clean the area, a cavity may begin to form between the teeth. This cavity could even affect both teeth at the same time, causing both tooth surfaces to erode.
You Are at Risk of Gum Disease
Your gums too are in danger from such food traps. Should the bacteria be allowed to multiply and flourish in the small gap, they may also invade the pockets around your teeth, causing tartar build-up and subsequent gum recession. You may never even be aware that you have tartar between your teeth if the gap is tiny.
Once the tartar forms on your teeth, the bacteria within it are safe from your brushing and flossing and will begin to attack the gum and bone tissue as well as the ligaments holding your teeth in place. This is what is known as gum disease. Your gums will become red and inflamed in the early stages, known as gingivitis. If you do nothing to treat this problem, it won't be long before the condition worsens and becomes periodontitis.
A Simple Filling Can Solve This Problem
Both periodontitis and tooth decay can end up costing you in the long run as you will either pay expensive dental fees or lose the affected teeth. Fortunately, food traps can be filled using composite resin, the same material used for filling teeth. Once a dentist applies this tooth-coloured material between two teeth, it will harden and the gap will be no more.
According to a recent Australian Institute and Welfare (AIHW) report, a third of Australians avoid dental treatment due to the cost involved. A small filling in Australia can cost as little as $130. That's a small price to pay to prevent the possibility of having to lose and replace two teeth in future.
Do you have a food trap between two teeth? Get your dentist to fill in the space so that it doesn't serve as a safe haven for hungry bacterial organisms.