Popcorn is a delicious snack and easily one of my favourite snacks. As a dental hygienist, I know that popcorn can wreak havoc on the mouth, as I see many patients get popcorn stuck under their gums. But does popcorn dissolve under the gums if it doesn’t come out?
Popcorn hulls or kernels will not dissolve under the gums because the saliva cannot break down the hard starchy structure of the popcorn. Popcorn stuck under the gums leaves the gums susceptible to inflammation and irritation, and infection, which can become a severe health concern.
In this post, I explain further why popcorn can be dangerous to eat and your oral health and overall health. Knowing the risks and when to seek help from a dental professional is essential.
Can saliva dissolve popcorn stuck under the gums?
The outer layer of the popcorn is made out of starch and is resistant to the enzymatic breakdown properties of our saliva, so the saliva will not dissolve the popcorn under the gums.
Our bodies are pretty amazing at recognizing foreign objects and substances in our body, and our immune system gets triggered.
The immune system sends out the forces of white blood cells to try and remove the popcorn kernel, but because of the resistant texture of the popcorn kernel, our bodies cannot break down the popcorn.
So we end up in a continuous inflammatory state with the body ramping up its defences.
Over time, the infection can break down the tissue, causing tissue death and even an abscess.
Below is a link to a post I wrote about popcorn causing abscesses in the mouth. If you have popcorn stuck under your gums, you must read it!
What to do if a popcorn kernel is stuck in your gums for weeks
Book an appointment with a dental professional if a popcorn kernel has been stuck in your gums for weeks. Gum infections can start very quickly and become severe rapidly, which can lead to tissue loss, extreme pain, and even life-threatening.
You can try to get out the popcorn yourself by following the tips I provided in a post I wrote that is linked below. It contains all the information I give my patients in my dental chair.
I don’t mean to scare you, but as with any infection anywhere in the body, you do not want to leave it and avoid treatment. Be proactive and book an appointment with your dental professional.
We have special tools to remove the popcorn, and antibiotics may be prescribed if the infection is severe enough.
Will a popcorn kernel come out of the gums on its own?
Popcorn kernels can come out on their own due to saliva flow, chewing, drinking, and regular oral hygiene care such as flossing, brushing or using a Waterpik. It may take a couple of days for the popcorn kernel to become dislodged; however, it may not always come out on its own.
The popcorn hull is the perfect size/shape and texture to get lodged under the gumline and stay there.
Again if the popcorn is stuck under your gums for more than three days, I would book an appointment with your dental professional to get their help o to remove the popcorn.
Pain from a popcorn kernel stuck in your gums is a sign of infection
If you are experiencing pain in your gums from a stuck piece of popcorn, it could signify an infection is starting or escalating. Please see a dental professional if you have any dental pain!
How to eat popcorn without getting kernels in your teeth
It is pretty hard to avoid getting kernels stuck in your teeth and under the gums while eating popcorn.
However, there are a few ways to avoid the impaction of kernels farther underneath the gums.
- Chew smaller quantities of popcorn at each bite.
- Avoid eating the popcorn crumbs at the bottom of the bowl/bag.
- Don’t chew on the kernels, the solid kernels or the pieces.
- Chew more slowly and be mindful.
If you chew smaller amounts of popcorn in one mouthful, there will be less force impaction.
I know when I get a bag of my favourite sweet and salty popcorn, it is hard not to polish off the bottom of the bag. But all the harder and smaller pieces fall to the bottom, so avoid the bottom of the bag if you can!
Chewing on kernels not only can break the teeth (I speak from experience, one bite on a popcorn kernel cost me over $2000 with a root canal and a crown), but pieces can break off and get stuck between teeth and under the gums.
And lastly, chew slowly and be mindful about having popcorn stuck between your teeth. If it is stuck, don’t keep eating. Instead, remove it immediately because if you keep eating, the piece could get jammed up farther under your gums, making it more challenging for you to reach it and get it out!
I hope this information has helped you get that popcorn out of your gums!