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3150 North Elm Street, Suite 210
Greensboro, NC 27408

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Greensboro Dental Clinic, Dr. Margaret Szott

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February 9th, 2020

Ditch the Toothpick

Poppyseed bagels, corn on the cobb, popcorn, seasoning – what do all of these foods have in common? They can quickly get stuck in your teeth and become not only uncomfortable but also embarrassing. However, before you grab a toothpick, there are some safer and more efficient options for you to try that are better for your oral care.

Some foods, such as seeds or chewy candy, are notorious for getting trapped in between the teeth.  If, however, you frequently get food stuck between your teeth, there may be a reason other than the type of food  being consumed. Teeth can often shift overtime and create spaces where pesky pieces of food get lodged.   Also, fillings can break down causing areas for food to get trapped.

Toothpicks might seem like the most logical option to help remove food and debris from your teeth, but if you are not careful, you could be damaging your tooth enamel, tearing gum tissue, and even cause a chipped or broken tooth. Here are more reasons why poking around your mouth with a wooden stick, might not be such a good idea:

  • Lacerating Gums – If you have been a frequent toothpick user, your dentist is likely to notice some damage to your gums during your next exam. If you use toothpicks regularly or are rough when removing food, then you are likely damaging your gums which can lead to bleeding and tearing.
  • Damaging Tooth Enamel – Tooth enamel is the hard, outer surface layer of your teeth that serves to protect against tooth decay. Although considered the hardest mineral substance in your body, enamel is still vulnerable to damage caused by chewing on a toothpick.
  • Chipping Veneers or Crowns – Aggressive toothpick use can cause veneers and crowns to become damaged or even fall out.
  • Splinters - Due to toothpicks being made of wood, it is easy for a piece of wood to break off and get lodged in the gum tissue, and once pierced, bacteria can enter the gum tissue and cause an infection.’
  • Swallowing – On average, there about 900 choking incidents reported each year from someone either swallowing or inhaling a toothpick. So avoiding toothpick use is both good for your oral health and your overall wellbeing.

X ray of tooth pick damage

The best way to remove food from your teeth is to use dental floss. Flossing daily can help remove harmful plaque in between and on the sides of teeth. Combined with brushing, flossing is instrumental in preventing tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and overall keeps your teeth and mouth healthy.

If you have arthritis or trouble holding floss,  there are options for pre-threaded or unique floss holders to make it easier to maneuver. Depending on your needs, a dentist may suggest a different kind of toothbrush or a water flosser to help remove plaque and food particles between the teeth. Ask your dentist for recommendations at your next check-up.

Getting food stuck between your teeth can be embarrassing, but before reaching for the toothpick, think of your teeth and switch to an alternative.

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3150 North Elm Street
Suite 210
Greensboro, NC 27408
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