Fox Dental | Dentist in Lemoyne, New Cumberland and Camp Hill


Why you shouldn’t use toothpicks

According to the Academy of General Dentistry, using a toothpick is fine when no other options are available and if you are very careful. But dentists don’t recommend them for regular use. The problem? A piece of the wood can break off and get lodged in the gum tissue. Once the gum tissue is pierced, bacteria can enter and cause an infection. If you are, or have been, a frequent toothpick user, your dentist is likely to notice some damage to your gums during a dental exam.

Why not a toothpick?

The main problem or risk you take when using toothpicks is that a piece of wood can break off and get lodged in your gum tissue. See below for more reasons you should avoid using toothpicks:

  • Spaces between teeth: When a toothpick is used in the same spot frequently, it can create space in between your teeth. This leads to more food getting stuck and even cavities.
  • Damages tooth enamel: Toothpick users tend to chew on the wood itself which can wear down enamel.
  • Damages tooth roots: Heavy use of toothpicks can shift your gum down to expose more of your tooth’s root. This makes it much more likely to be damaged.

What to use instead?

Dentists can agree that the ideal way to remove food from in between your teeth is with dental floss. Flossing once a day removes leftover food stuck in hard to reach areas, but it also removes plaque that builds up in between your teeth.

Here are a few tips to start making flossing part of your daily routine:

  • Create Flossing Cues: One of the easiest ways to remind yourself to floss more is to create a flossing cue, a way to remind you to do it. This can be as simple as a sticky note on your bathroom mirror or a reminder alarm on your phone. There are even dental apps that help you set reminders such as Brush DJ. The app helps you to brush your teeth for the full two minutes to a randomly selected song from your playlist.
  • Chunk Floss: Studies in neuroscience show that one way to create a new habit is by chunking the desired one with something you already do. This action, called ‘habit-chunking’ can work for flossing too. Pick something that you do every day, dental or non-dental, and put floss there. Before you do that daily habit, floss first. By chunking, you basically trick your brain into creating a new habit without thinking too much about it.
  • Stash Floss Everywhere: If you only floss by the mirror, it may seem like a time-consuming chore, ut if you have it stashed in places like your purse, pocket, car, or by the TV, you can do it when you have any extra minute. So, stock up on floss, LOTS OF IT! 
  • Find the flossing product that works best for you: Not everyone has to use string floss. Some find it difficult to maneuver while others think it is just plain slimy. If you have sensitive teeth and gums that bleed easily, choose a soft floss that slides easily and comfortably between the teeth. There are also many alternatives to string floss such as floss holders, floss picks, and water flossers.

Types of floss:

  • Traditional Waxed Floss – this is the typical offering. The wax can help make it easier to get the floss between your teeth so if you have really tiny spaces this could be a good option for you.
  • Non-waxed floss – The lack of wax might make the floss a bit thinner, but the absence of the wax acting as a lubricant might make it a little more difficult to thread between your teeth.
  • Floss Threaders – these handy tools are especially great for individuals with braces or permanent retainers. You can take your floss and place it inside the threader and then use the threader to guide the floss where you need it to go.
  • Electric or Water Flossers – these handy tools can be great for those who really can’t get into the regular routine of flossing, they use a combination of pressure and water to clean away plaque and stuck food from the hard to reach areas between your teeth. These are great options but might not clean the entire area. They can be a little more expensive and they might make more of a mess during your daily routine.

We know toothpicks might make you look cool, but they aren’t a sustainable tooth cleaning method. Next time you want to reach for a pick, grab the floss instead to keep your mouth healthy and happy.

Call our treatment coordinators if you have any questions, they will be happy to assist you.