The gum nightmare that is toothpicks

Toothpicks have been around for centuries commonly made out of wood and a few from plastic. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

We have mentioned before the need for caution on using toothpicks. Today, we come back to emphasise that point. I understand most of us have gone to the restaurant and we find toothpicks at the table. Of course after a meat meal, I often see people using the picks to remove meat remnants from in between their teeth.

Toothpicks have been around for centuries commonly made out of wood and a few from plastic.

Dangers of toothpicks

• As you use the toothpick, you often poke downwards towards the gum, this causes gum irritation and bleeding in the long run you get gingivitis (a disease involving inflammation of the gums)

• Most of the times as you try to poke you are aggressive therefore risking the breakage of the pick in between the teeth and you could also accidentally swallow it especially for the wooden type. Breaking though is not so common for the plastic type; since it has a high flexural strength. 

• As you clean using the toothpick, you try to wedge it in the little space that naturally exists between teeth. This creates a widened space “black triangle”  because of the continuous use of the pick that destroys the gum and reduces the bone height that is supporting the teeth in between. 

• In addition, as you are always aggressive, you may wear down the enamel (outer layer of the tooth) leaving your tooth at risk of getting interproximal dental caries (holes found in between teeth).

It is important you clean in between your teeth so as to avoid food getting trapped there that can predispose you to getting cavities, bone loss and gingivitis.

Exchange the toothpick for dental floss for an effective clean! You can visit your dentist to show you how to clean in between your teeth using dental floss.

For more information concerning sealants, visit our website at

Dr Maria Goretti Nakyonyi  is a dental surgeon


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