How To Safely Remove A Popcorn Kernel That's Stuck In Your Gums

Perhaps you've had a sliver of broccoli or a chunk of sunflower seed stuck between your teeth before, but have you ever had a piece of popcorn kernel lodged below your gums? At best, it's a pesky but temporary interruption during your favorite movie. In the worst-case scenario, however, a stuck popcorn hull that hits your gums at the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to inflammation, irritation, or a serious gum abscess if it's not removed promptly, according to experts at Columbia River Dentistry.

So how do we pop that salty, buttery visitor out for good? First and foremost, Gallery 57 Dental cautions against using miscellaneous objects to try and pry it loose. In other words, stay away from toothpicks, paperclips, and any other pointy objects that could potentially do more harm than good. Rather, you can start by trying to rinse the kernel piece out. You can do this by either using a Waterpik or a warm saltwater mix composed of 1 teaspoon of salt per glass. Swish the drink around in your mouth for a period of 15 to 30 seconds before spitting. The saltwater may also help temporarily relieve any irritation.

Flossing is your best bet

The second best tactic for removing a kernel hull from underneath the gumline is to take a toothbrush to it, says Gallery 57 Dental. However, the direction in which you brush will depend on whether the kernel is lodged in your upper or lower gums. For the upper gums, position your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and lightly brush downwards away from the gumline. If the kernel is stuck in your bottom teeth, brush softly upwards away from the gumline.

Overall, however, there is one method for removing a popcorn kernel from the gums that trumps all others: flossing. Yet this too should be done gently. Experts at Gallery 57 Dental caution that working the floss too harshly could cause the kernel to become lodged even deeper. Instead, starting on one side of the kernel, lightly move the floss up, down, forward, and back, using a C-motion down to the gumline. Repeat this motion on the opposite side of the kernel before rinsing out your mouth

Sometimes, however, despite your best efforts, a determined popcorn kernel may still remain stubbornly between your teeth — particularly if you have braces, which can create an added obstacle when trying to reach the kernel (via Columbia River Dentistry). In this event, see your dentist. They can utilize a water jet or other dental instruments to send that kernel packing once and for all.