A British firefighter thought the biggest danger he faced was a burning building, but it turns out it was popcorn. At least, that’s what he’s blaming for his recent brush with death from a potentially fatal heart infection. 

It is a reminder to take oral infections seriously and see a dentist if you have food stuck in your teeth. 

Popcorn blamed for heart infection

From Movie Night to Fight for Life

Adam Martin, a middle-aged firefighter from Cornwall, was eating popcorn at home with his wife when a piece of it got stuck in his teeth. The husk of popcorn kernels are notorious for their ability to slip between teeth and gums, which can be not just painful, but an open entrance for bacterial infection. 

He tried to remove the painful piece of food debris for three days, using a variety of tools, including a toothpick, pen lid, wire, and a metal nail. Then, a week later, he showed multiple signs of infection, including fever, night sweats, fatigue, headaches, and a heart murmur. As this didn’t resolve, he went to a doctor and was diagnosed with a heart murmur. After tests showed little else, he was sent home to recover, but flu-like symptoms persisted, at which point he went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with infective endocarditis

He received multiple surgeries to clear an infected blood clot in his leg, then to replace or repair two of his heart valves that had been damaged by infection. 

Doctors haven’t confirmed that the bacteria causing the infection entered Martin’s body through his mouth. However, Martin blames the popcorn, and this is a common route for this type of infection. 

How to Deal with Food Stuck in Teeth

So what do you do if you have food stuck in your teeth? Try removing it with your tongue first. If you can’t use tools intended for use on your teeth: floss, interdental cleaners, toothpicks, etc. 

Don’t pick at the food debris with your fingernails or with tools not intended for your teeth. Especially avoid using anything metal. Not only is this a potential source of infection, metal tools can damage your teeth. 

Don’t panic immediately. Often food debris will work itself out if left alone. In addition to potential damage and infection, picking at it can wedge it in more tightly. If the food debris is causing so much pain that it interferes with other activities, seek care from a dentist right away. Otherwise, you can give the debris some time to dissolve and/or work itself free. 

If food is still in your teeth the next day, or if you develop signs of local or systemic infection, seek professional care. 

Healthy, Straight Teeth Less Likely to Trap Food

One of the best ways to deal with food stuck in teeth is to prevent it in the first place. If your teeth are straight and your gums are healthy, you are less likely to trap food in your teeth. Crooked teeth have many irregular spaces, and chewing can force food into these spaces, where it’s hard to remove. 

Healthy gums are tight against your teeth, but in gum disease the gums can pull away from the teeth. This creates a space for food debris, such as popcorn husks, to get trapped. 

We can help you avoid food stuck in your teeth. Invisalign can straighten your teeth, eliminating irregular spaces that are hard to clean. We also offer regular checkups and professional cleanings that can help you prevent or treat gum disease. 

If you’re looking for help maintaining your oral and overall health in Rochester, NY, please call (585) 244-3337 today for an appointment with a dentist at Contemporary Dentistry.