You’ve probably experienced at least one moment during your lifetime when you had something stuck between your teeth that just wouldn’t seem to dislodge itself, no matter your best efforts. Perhaps the only solution to the issue at the time was a toothpick—but is this the go-to answer? Believe it or not, toothpicks actually pose a risk to your oral health, despite their name! Here’s more about some of the dangers of using toothpicks to clean your teeth, along with some healthy and safe alternatives your dentist thinks you should consider.
What Makes Toothpicks an Oral Health Hazard?
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, using a toothpick is fine when no other options are available and you’re very careful; however, they don’t recommend them for regular use. There are a few different reasons for toothpicks being oral health hazards, including:
- They can break easily – a toothpick is thin and flimsy and capable of breaking easily; these fragments can become lodged in the gum tissue and cause damage and infection.
- They can transmit bacteria – the pointy end of a toothpick can create wounds that are vulnerable to bacteria. Even the toothpick itself can function as a vehicle for germs to enter the mouth.
- They can damage enamel and restorations alike – if you have a veneer, filling or crown, it might be in danger if you’re regularly using toothpicks—as are your natural teeth.
- They can create gaps between teeth – if you’re frequently using toothpicks, you might accidentally create additional space between your teeth where debris can collect more easily.
What Are Some Safe Alternatives to Toothpicks?
Dentists everywhere agree that the ideal way to remove food that’s stuck between your teeth is with dental floss; after all, that’s what it’s designed for! Flossing daily is an integral part of any oral hygiene routine and is ultimately a much safer habit than using toothpicks. You could opt for traditional dental floss, which comes in several types and varieties, as well as plastic-handled floss sticks or even a Waterpik. In addition to flossing, using water to rinse out your mouth might also be effective.
These options are all preferable to toothpicks because they’re difficult (or impossible) to break in a way that might damage the surrounding teeth or gums. The use of soft floss or water is gentle and generally unable to lacerate gum tissue, thus avoiding infection or inflammation.
In short, the risks outweigh the benefits when it comes to using toothpicks—and with so many other options that are both safer and readily available, it’s easy to put your oral health first and opt for using something other than a toothpick to clean your pearly whites.
About the Practice
Here at Simply Dental & Orthodontics, we’re thrilled to offer patients and families in the Wayland, MA area an exceptional level of service. We provide a wide range of preventive, cosmetic and restorative options. If you have any questions about the article or would like to arrange a visit, don’t hesitate to contact the practice online or over the phone for further assistance: (508) 358-6300.