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Toothpicks have a long history as civilization’s primary tooth-cleaning instrument.  The West began to abandon them in the 1700s as the toothbrush gradually became the standard of care for cleaning teeth.

Toothpicks date back to 3,500 BC when the earliest known oral hygiene kit featuring a toothbrush was found in China, a curved pendant, made of cast bronze was worn around the neck and used as a toothpick. 

However, we now know toothpicks can damage tooth enamel, lacerate gums, and even cause a broken tooth in severe cases.  People with bonding or veneers can chip or break them if they aren’t careful.  Overly aggressive use of toothpicks can severely wear the roots of teeth, especially in cases where gums have pulled away from the teeth and leave teeth with root surfaces exposed.  Toothpicks should be used sparingly as a method of teeth cleaning and should never be considered a substitute for brushing teeth and flossing.  Toothpicks should be used only when a toothbrush or floss is not available.

The toothpick, or its equivalent, is used in many countries as the main tool in the battle against tooth decay.  Many people use the twigs of trees to clean between their teeth. 

Toothpicks have been made of numerous materials through history, including:

  • Wood
  • Porcupine quill
  • Chicken bone
  • Ivory
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Steel

Do you find yourself always reaching for the after eating toothpick?  If so, be careful, so you don’t find yourself doing more harm than good.