Toothpicks have been used for decades to remove food particles stuck in between teeth. They save you the embarrassment and discomfort of talking with particles of food in your teeth.
However, dentists no longer recommend the use of toothpicks as they can damage your teeth and gums. Toothpicks are not gentle on the gums and they can lodge in or pierce gum tissue, which can result in infection or damage.
But, you should not worry as there are better and safer alternatives to toothpicks as will be illustrated in this article. Let us look at other reasons why toothpicks are bad for your mouth.
Reasons Why Toothpicks Are Bad For Your Mouth
• Damages tooth enamel. This is the outer covering of a tooth. It is naturally tough but regular use of toothpicks can damage it.
• Lacerate the gums. Frequent and rough use of toothpicks puts you at a risk of damaging your gums, causing tearing and bleeding.
• Harms tooth roots. Gums that have drawn away from tooth roots are prone to damage when you use a toothpick. Other than that, it is extremely painful to touch bare tooth roots with a toothpick or anything else.
• Chip crowns or veneers. Vigorous use of toothpicks can damage crowns or veneers to a point of them falling out altogether.
• Splinters. A toothpick can split and leave your gums with splinters, or your throat and tongue. Splinters can be painful and difficult to remove, and when left in the mouth for too long, can cause an infection.
• Swallowing. You can actually chock and die from swallowing a toothpick! Thousands of choking incidents are reported annually from inhaling or swallowing a toothpick.
What is an Interdental Brush?
These are toothbrushes that have longer handles than the ordinary toothbrushes; they have a thin flossing head with thin bristles making them easy to use in comparison to traditional floss. Interdental brushes are available in various sizes to suit different gap sizes, and sometimes have bristles instead of knobbed plastic tips. Ensure that you change the heads often to prevent reintroduction of bacteria in the mouth.
They are excellent in removing food particles and cleaning around orthodontic additions to the oral cavity. People with large hands or limited manual dexterity may find interdental brushes easier to use than dental floss. The use of interdental brushes is recommended for people with mobility or joint problems who have challenges when using normal dental floss.
It is beneficial to use an interdental brush as you do not need to throw it away after a single use. You can use the brush for longer until when they bend or become worn out.
How To Use An Interdental Brush
• Use an interdental brush once a day
• You should use a brush with an appropriate size to fit spaces between your teeth; it may be necessary to use more than one size
• Gently insert the brush between your teeth, if it feels too tight, use a smaller brush size; do not force the brush to fit a smaller space
• Make sure you work the entire mouth
Is Just Flossing The Best Way To Clean In-Between Your Teeth?
Flossing is among the top universal recommendations in public health; daily flossing prevents cavities and gum disease. But, there isn’t much proof that is works as advocated. In spite of this, the practice has been pushed for decades by dental organizations, governments, and manufacturers.
An investigation conducted by Associated Press (AP) lead to the journalists asking for proof that flossing works from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Following this, the recommendations were quietly dropped by the US government, after admitting lack of scientific evidence to support the claims. But, this does not mean that flossing is useless, it just means that it is not the only way to clean in-between your teeth.
Modern Ways to Clean your Teeth
Other than using toothpicks and dental floss, there are other modern ways to rid your teeth of food particles and plaque.
1. Dental Picks
Dental picks look like interdental brushes. They have heads with small rubber tines or short bristles that are used to get rid of plaque and food particles. Usage is by inserting one between the teeth and pulling it out. The interdental cleaning devices are available in small packs, making them portable hence you can use them home and away.
2. Disposable Floss Picks
Floss picks are alternatives to traditional floss. A floss pick has two plastic prongs and a handles, which makes it look like a sling shot; the floss is fitted between the prongs. They are an excellent option when trying to introduce flossing to children.
Floss picks come in molded and colorful multi-packs making them appealing to children. You can carry them in a purse of vehicle compartment as they occupy a small space. Make sure you discard them after use to avoid reintroducing bacteria back to the mouth. Usage is by inserting the floss in-between the teeth.
3. Non-Disposable Floss Picks
Non-disposable floss picks have a floss head and a longer handle. There are several brands available where some have replaceable floss heads while others have floss threaders. Their long handles make it easy to reach the back teeth, which is a challenge when using ordinary dental floss.
4. Water Picks
Also referred to as oral irrigators, water picks are an excellent option of removing food that can be felt between teeth. It uses water pumped through the device to effectively remove plaque and food particles from teeth. Studies have shown that the water minimizes gum inflammation and aids in quickening the healing of scratches and oral sores.
There are several varieties of water picks with some being tankless; you attach it to the faucet. Another variety has a water tank that is filled with water before use and the water discarded after use. Using a water pick involves holding the flossing end between the teeth and pressing a button. Water flows between the teeth to remove plaque and food particles.
Water picks are an ideal choice for people with braces who cannot use traditional flossing as it is difficult to floss around the hardware. Sadly, braces can collect a significant amount of food particles and bacteria, which cannot be removed by only brushing your teeth. If you are an orthodontic patient, use a water pick that contains a specialized orthodontic tip after brushing. It has been proven that this will remove up to five times the amount of plaque removed through manual toothbrush.
5. Sonic Air Floss
This floss works the same way as a water pick. Instead of exclusively using water, a blend of water and air is used to eliminate food particles from your teeth. Use it by placing the head to the adjacent space between the teeth and switch it on. The air and water mixture thoroughly cleans between the teeth to prevent gum disease.
6. Dental Floss
This is the most common alternative to toothpicks. To reap its maximum benefits, you have to use dental floss after brushing your teeth. When used correctly, you can prevent gingivitis, cavities, and periodontitis by removing plaque and food particles from the teeth.
In summary, only use a toothpick when nothing else is available. Use one to remove food particles stuck between the teeth. Place the tip near the gum line and direct it towards the top edge or the chewing tooth. Never point it to the gums. Lift the food particle gently and take it away from the mouth. Do not push the toothpick inside the gaps of your teeth as it will harm your teeth.
Use alternative modern ways to clean teeth to keep your teeth clean and plaque-free to maintain oral health. In case you are unsure of the alternative method to use, consult your dentist to recommend a product that considers the gaps between your teeth, and also matches your lifestyle and oral hygiene.