Throughout our lives, we’ll occasionally encounter food objects that are notorious for becoming stuck between our teeth—and when this happens, it can make smiling quite awkward, especially if we don’t even realize the debris is visible! But of course, the threat to your oral health is just as important, meaning that this issue should be resolved quickly. One option that many people utilize for this is a toothpick—but despite its name, using one is not always a good idea. Here’s more from your trusted dentist about the potential harm that can befall your smile if you use toothpicks too frequently, along with some safer alternatives worth considering.
How Toothpicks Can Harm Your Oral Health
The American Academy of General Dentistry, one of the most reputable professional dental organizations in existence, states that it’s okay to use a toothpick if you don’t have any other available options. However, you should still exercise a considerable amount of caution, and you certainly shouldn’t use them frequently. This is because toothpicks, as helpful as they may seem, can pose a serious threat to your oral health. Here are a few ways how:
- They can break easily, leading to tiny wooden fragments becoming stuck between your teeth which can lead to damage and infection.
- The end of a toothpick can transport outside bacteria into your mouth.
- Toothpicks can damage both natural tooth enamel as well as dental restorations like crowns or dentures.
- Frequent toothpick use can cause your gums to shift down, exposing the sensitive roots of your teeth.
- Toothpicks can create additional space between your teeth that provide more room for bacteria to collect.
Use These Safe Alternatives Instead of Toothpicks
Consider using one of these dentist-approved items for removing debris from your teeth, rather than potentially harmful toothpicks:
- Dental floss – Dentists universally agree that dental floss is perhaps the best and safest way to remove debris and food particles stuck between your teeth. There are waxed and non-waxed varieties, as well as floss picks, which are plastic picks with precut strands of floss attached to them—these are usually easier to manipulate and handle than traditional floss.
- Oral irrigator – These are also known as Waterpiks, and they rely on a gentle, pressurized stream of water to clear debris from between teeth. Though they’re a little pricier than regular dental floss options, they’re undeniably effective.
- Water – Believe it or not, even simply drinking a glass of water can prove useful for dislodging anything that might be stuck between your teeth. You might also try using lukewarm saltwater to rinse your mouth; this is especially useful if you’re also dealing with minor inflammation.
Even though they’re dubbed “tooth” picks, these little tools aren’t always the best or safest option for your pearly whites. By considering these substitutes, you can ensure that you aren’t needlessly endangering your teeth the next time you eat one of your favorite snacks!
About the Author
Dr. Jayson Voto received his DDS from the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry and has proudly served patients and families in the Owasso, OK community for several years! His practice is excited to offer a wide range of preventive, cosmetic, and restorative services geared toward helping you and your loved ones achieve and maintain dazzling, healthy smiles. If you have any questions about the blog or you’d like to arrange a visit, feel free to contact the practice online or by phone: (918) 272-5381.