Toothpicks are everywhere at restaurants, and it seems like a great idea to pick one up and casually remove food debris from between your teeth. However, haven't you ever noticed that toothpicks are offered at restaurants, not dentists' offices? Here's why you should never use toothpicks for their intended purpose.
Toothpicks are made of wood, and wood is abrasive. Has your dentist ever told you that you should brush your teeth with light, gentle strokes? Now imagine the toughness difference between a toothbrush bristle (soft, flexible, and gentle) and a toothpick (hard, solid, and unbending). You can easily damage the enamel of your teeth with a toothpick, which is not only bad to do to any part of your teeth, but you're probably going to use it between your teeth. Scraping there increases your risk for developing cavities, as it's where the most food accumulates after eating.
Risk of Injury
Scraping and damaging your teeth is bad enough, but what about your gums? It's easy to lose a grip on a toothpick, as they are quite narrow. When that happens, the toothpick can slip, potentially hitting you in the gums. The gum tissue is rather fragile, and damage like this can easily create a small wound in your gums. This will be painful, and it could bleed.
If that weren't enough, there's nothing sanitary about the average toothpick. More often than not, they're offered in an open container that could have come into contact with all kinds of bacteria in the open air. That bacteria can easily create an infection once you've stabbed your gums, which could cause some serious oral health problems that you might need to see a dentist or doctor about.
Lastly, consider that toothpicks are made out of scrap wood and break easily. They don't flex, so any excess of pressure on them and they'll split apart. This can create shards of wood in your mouth that can accidentally be swallowed or go on to hurt your gums in multiple places. They could also easily damage your tongue, which could cause significant bleeding.
If it isn't clear yet, you should stay away from toothpicks. While they might be fun to use in craft projects, they're not cleared by dentists and aren't safe for oral use. Stick to flossing your teeth if you want to get food out from between them and pass by the toothpicks the next time they're offered to you at a restaurant.
For more information about tooth care, talk to a dentist like David W Hyten DMD.