Healthy Living

Using a toothpick could hurt your teeth

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Many people use toothpicks which can easily damage the gums. photo by Faiswal Kasirye 

By Richard Kabanda

Posted  Monday, June 2   2014 at  01:00

For some people, it’s common practice to use a toothpick after every meal, whether it is at a restaurant or in their homes. While cleaning your teeth is certainly a good thing, the popularity of toothpicks begs the question; are they actually safe for your teeth?

Like the toothbrush, many people argue that toothpicks can significantly benefit you if used with care. When used excessively or improperly, toothpicks might scrape or damage your sensitive gum tissue.
Since toothpicks are limited in their ability to reach between your teeth, we (dentists) recommend relying on a dental floss.

Knowing you have a problem
Some foods are notorious for sticking between teeth, but if you constantly find yourself picking food from your teeth, then you may have a problem.
Dentists can easily examine your teeth for improper spacing, or perhaps cavities or holes that allow food and bacteria to gather inside them.
If your teeth aren’t properly shaped or aligned, or are infected with decay, then annoyance will be the least of your problems without proper treatment.

The cons
A toothpick could cause some damage to your gums whether it is made of wood or the modern plastic ones.
A toothpick may not be damaging to the teeth, but the gums surely take a battering when one uses the toothpick too aggressively.
Toothpicks are the most commonly swallowed items, making them a danger to your wellbeing as well.

What about dental floss?
Although dental floss is generally more effective than toothpicks, it can also damage your teeth and gums if not used properly. Wrap floss around your index fingers, and use your thumbs for leverage as you carefully maneuver the floss between your teeth.

Angle the floss around the side of one tooth and gently move it up and down, then angle the floss around the other tooth and repeat the movement. Your dentist can best explain to you how to use dental floss.

Professional opinion
Before you pick up that toothpick and get to work on your teeth, think twice because when you do, you may hurt your gums and thus end up affecting your smile.

The writer is a dentist