Toothpicks have become common fixtures at the checkout stands at many restaurants, and it can be tempting to reach for one to try to discreetly remove a piece of food stuck between your teeth. But in many cases, you can be doing more harm than good. Toothpicks are usually made of plastic or wood and can be flat, rounded or bristled and may also be flavored. Whichever type you’re using, it’s wise to be careful when with a toothpick.
In this blog, the dentists at Central Avenue Dental in Manhattan and Valley Stream NY Queens explain how toothpicks can be bad for your teeth and how to use them more safely as a last resort:
How can you effectively use a toothpick?
Toothpicks should be a last resort when you have a piece of food stuck between your teeth and you’re out and about without floss. Use a light touch and proceed carefully, making sure not to jab. A better solution is to carry a small package of dental floss in your glove compartment, desk drawer at work, and/or purse.
Why can using a toothpick be harmful?
Using a toothpick can damage the protective enamel that covers your teeth or even break a tooth. You could damage gum tissue or the roots of your teeth, particularly if you have gums that have exposed these roots. In addition, you could damage dental work such as bonding or veneers. Part of the toothpick could break off and get stuck in your gums, possibly leading to an infection if it’s not removed. In rare cases, people have actually swallowed toothpicks.
What are some alternatives to using toothpicks?
There are better, safer choices than using a toothpick. Try one of the following alternatives instead:
- Floss – This is a safe, effective, and inexpensive way to remove food from between your teeth. If you find traditional spooled floss difficult to use, try floss that comes on a handle. Pass the floss in between your teeth to work the food out, taking care to keep it pressed against your tooth. If you pull it down too far and too hard, you could cut your gums.
- Inter-proximal brushes – This small brush looks like a bottle brush and can be used on larger spaces, with or without toothpaste. Make sure to replace them frequently before the metal wire becomes flimsy.
- Soft picks – These are like inter-proximal brushes, but they’re meant to be disposed after one use.
- Water picks – These can be effective, but you should talk with your dentist or dental hygienist about the proper way to use them. They can be a good way to remove food between your teeth and can be especially helpful if you have braces.
- Air flossers – This device uses compressed air to spray water or mouthwash between your teeth. They’re believed to be highly effective.
To find out more about keeping your teeth and gums healthy, make an appointment today with Central Avenue Dental. We offer general, cosmetic, and advanced dentistry, so we can provide the full range of dental services for you and your family.