You just finished eating a yummy steak, but now you’re noticing that you have a bit of meat stuck between your teeth. Fortunately, the restaurant where you’re eating is kind enough to provide toothpicks at the table. You reach for one, and—no! Don’t do it. There are several reasons why you should leave those little wooden stakes right where they are. Your dentist in Lynnfield is here to discuss all the downsides of toothpicks and to suggest a better alternative.
Toothpicks Aren’t Effective
The point of toothpicks is to clean between your pearly whites and help you keep a clean mouth, right? Unfortunately, they don’t do their job very well. The tip of a toothpick isn’t thin enough to truly reach into the tight spaces between your teeth. Even if it removes some particles, it might actually shove other debris farther into those cramped little openings.
Both old-fashioned wooden toothpicks and modern plastic ones have the same problem, so it’s best to skip them and wait until you get home use better, more effective means of cleaning of your mouth.
Toothpicks Might Even Cause You Harm
It’s bad enough that toothpicks don’t work to clean your mouth, but what’s even worse is that they might actually cause some damage in there. Here’s how they can wreak havoc on your oral health:
- It’s too easy to accidentally stab your gums while you’re using a toothpick. This could lead to bleeding and swelling.
- If a wooden toothpick splinters while you’re using it, it could get stuck in your gums and cause an infection.
- Being too aggressive with a toothpick could damage your tooth enamel. If you have porcelain veneers or dental bonding on your teeth, you could also chip those restorations.
- If you have receding gums, your tooth roots are exposed. A toothpick could damage this sensitive area of your pearly whites.
- Toothpicks are one of the most commonly swallowed objects. Once one gets into your system, you’ll probably have to visit a doctor to get it out before it leads to serious internal damage.
The Best Way to Clean Between Teeth
If toothpicks are out of the question, what is the best way to clean between your teeth? Any guesses? Yep, it’s floss. Flossing might seem like a hassle, but it is superior to toothpicks because it is thinner and can effectively clean the tight spaces in your mouth. Plus, it’s easier to control and poses much less of a risk to your gums. It won’t splinter and cause an infection, and there’s virtually no risk that you’ll accidentally swallow your floss.
Toothpicks are fantastic, but only if you’re looking for a good way to serve hors d’oeuvres. Otherwise, you should stay away from them. Your teeth and gums will thank you for using floss instead!
About the Dentist
Dr. Rob Schumacher has been practicing dentistry for well over a decade, and he continues to have a passion for caring for his patients’ oral health. If you have any concerns about your teeth and gums (or you want to know if your toothpick habit has caused some damage), please contact us at 781-334-3400.