We’ve all had that annoying feeling of food stuck in between our teeth. So, we reach for a toothpick to quickly pry out the extra food out of our teeth. This seems pretty harmless, right? Although it may seem like a convenient way to remove the bacteria-feeding leftover food in your mouth, it may actually be doing more harm than good. Using a toothpick gently holds no risks, but using a toothpick excessively can cause cut gums, damaged enamel, and even chipped teeth. Oral health problems like damaged enamel and fractured teeth can then open up a whole other list of consequences. Dental implant specialist, Dr. Gary Altschuler, explains the dangers toothpicks pose to oral health when used excessively for his patients here in Gainesville, FL.
History of Toothpicks
Before we go into how toothpicks can damage your teeth and gums, let’s discuss the history of the toothpick. The toothpick is the earliest evidence of a dental cleaning device and anthropologists have even found evidence of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens using a tooth picking tool. Throughout time, different civilizations used toothpicks to pick their mouths clean. Some upper classes even used toothpicks made of gold, silver, or ivory encrusted with precious stones. This device was also considered a notable dowry item.
Toothpicks didn’t become a convenient, disposable item until the largest toothpick manufactory was founded in Boston by Charles Forster. He created a market for toothpicks by getting Harvard students to loudly demand for a toothpick at local restaurants. His company, Forsters, Inc, still makes toothpicks today in Strong, Maine and puts out an average of 30 million toothpicks every day. Since they first became readily available, toothpicks are also used for other purposes than just removing leftover food. They can also be used for baking and garnishing cocktails.
Damage Caused by Toothpicks
So, how exactly can toothpicks be damaging? If you use them gently, they won’t cause damage at all, but in many instances people can become too overzealous with their toothpick while trying to get food out of their teeth. It’s easy for dentists to tell if a patient overuses toothpicks because their enamel can be scraped off or their gums will often be cut. They are especially dangerous for individuals that have dental veneers or bonding because toothpicks can cause chips or breakage. Enough usage of toothpicks can even cause gum recession in extreme cases, which can open up even more oral health issues. We don’t want to completely deter you away from toothpicks; Toothpicks are fine every once in awhile, but you should opt for flossing instead if you have another option. These items are also the most commonly swallowed item, which is another hazard to keep in mind.
Although flossing aggressively can be damaging, we always recommend removing food from between your teeth as soon as you can. Leaving food in between your teeth will serve as fuel for bacteria in your mouth to flourish. Bacteria can then multiply and eat away at your teeth and invade your gums.This will cause a multitude of dental problems.
Potentially Hazardous for Dental Implants
Toothpicks can be especially harmful if you’ve recently had dental implants put in. The stability of dental implants relies on osseointegration or the fusion of implants to the jawbone. This process can take months and is critical to the success of dental implants. Implant providers will usually tell you to be extra mindful about the pressure you put on the surgical site because it can disrupt the osseointegration process. Using a toothpick to pick around the gums where the implant was just placed can be harmful to the healing process.
Contact our Office in Gainesville, FL
As harmless as it may seem, toothpicks can actually cause quite a bit of damage for your oral health. Damage to your enamel and gums is inevitable with excess use of toothpicks. The problems caused by toothpicks will only open up even more problems like tooth decay, gum inflammation, and tooth loss. Of course, we recommend choosing dental implants if you happen to be dealing with tooth loss. Dental implants provide a healthy, natural look to the smile that will likely last the rest of a patient’s life. For more information, contact our office in Gainesville, FL to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.