By Kenneth J Canzoneri DDS.
Dear Dr. KC:
Whenever my brother has something to eat he reaches for a toothpick. We went to a restaurant the other day and as I came back to the table he was poking and sucking food out from between his teeth with a toothpick. Besides being embarrassing this can’t be good for his mouth, right ?
– Grossed Out
Dear Grossed Out:
Picking pieces of food, that you ate over the last few hours, out of your teeth then swallowing those tiny particles is at best unsanitary. Even worse than the toothpick food picking is that there are people who have decided that walking around with a toothpick hanging from their mouth looks cool. What do you think is going to happen if this person falls or accidentally gets hit in the mouth or runs into something? That sharp piece of wood or plastic gets driven into your teeth, gums, lips or tongue causing a painful, emergency situation.
But there is even a darker side to toothpicks. When something surprises or scares you, you usually gasp or take a quick deep breath. Just think what could happen if you have that sharp piece of wood or plastic in your mouth when you involuntarily inhale! The toothpick can get lodged in your throat, obstruct your airway and ultimately may have to be surgically removed.
If you are getting food stuck in between your teeth go to a dentist and find out why. Possible causes would be a poor bite, cracked teeth, fillings, or decay just to name a few. In my mind the only safe, sanitary and effective way to get food particles out from between your teeth is to FLOSS.