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Why Toothpicks are Actually Bad for Your Smile

December 16, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — mdentistryindy @ 5:29 pm
Woman holding a toothpick and covering her mouth

When there’s a troublesome piece of food stuck in your smile, your first thought might be to use a toothpick to get it out. But while this might seem like a good idea on paper, the truth is that most emergency dentists recommend against using toothpicks to clean the teeth. Why is this, and what can you do instead to get rid of food debris in your grin? Here are the facts you need to keep your teeth and gums safe.

Why Should You Not Use Toothpicks?

There are several risks to using hard wooden toothpicks to clean between the teeth:

  • Part of the toothpick might break off and get lodged in your gum tissue, which can be very painful.
  • Toothpicks can potentially damage your gums and lead to an infection.
  • When you use a toothpick in the same area multiple times, the space between the teeth can get bigger, making it even more likely that food will get stuck there.
  • Pushing a toothpick into your gums can cause them to recede and expose the roots of your teeth, which puts you at a higher risk for various dental issues.
  • If you have a restoration such as a dental crown or a filling, using a toothpick can damage it.

In short, using a toothpick simply isn’t worth the risk when you have other options for cleaning your smile.

What Should You Do Instead to Clean Between Your Teeth?

Dental floss is often your best option for removing stuck pieces of food. Not only is it much gentler on your gums compared to toothpicks, but it can also help remove the plaque that can lead to cavities.

You can begin by flossing as you normally would. If that doesn’t work, tie a small knot in the floss and carefully pull it between your teeth. The extra thickness of the knot will often be enough to dislodge the foreign material in your smile.

In cases where floss proves ineffective, try rinsing vigorously with water. Brushing might also help; sometimes your toothbrush can be used to maneuver food out from between the teeth.

If you simply can’t get rid of food debris on your own, call your dentist. Even if you’re not experiencing any serious pain, leaving food in your teeth for too long can lead to oral health complications. Your dentist will examine your tooth carefully and consider the best way to remove the offending object as gently as possible.

It might be tempting to reach for a toothpick when you notice a piece of food in your grin, but remember that there are much better options for removing it.

About the Author

Dr. Corey Martinez knew from a young age that he wanted to pursue a career in dentistry. He earned his dental doctorate at the Indiana University School of Dentistry, and he is currently an active member of various professional organizations including the Indiana Dental Association. If you have something stuck between your teeth and want to schedule an emergency appointment with Dr. Martinez, call Martinez Dentistry in Indianapolis at (317) 846-3431. You can also contact him via his website.

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