Why toothpicks are bad for you

Dear Dentist, my teeth have developed spaces in between them. Could this be a result of using tooth picks, or are there other causes?
Isma, Mpigi.
Dear Isma, the use of tooth picks is one of the causes of space in between one’s teeth. For some people, it’s a common practice to use a tooth pick every after a meal whether it is at the 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 your toothbrush, many people argue that tooth picks 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.

However, receding of gums is another cause that can lead to creation of space between your teeth. This recession can be as a result of poor brushing methods and having a gum disease.

Identifying the 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 of them. If your teeth aren’t properly shaped or aligned, or if they are infected with decay, then annoyance will be the least of your problems if you do not get proper treatment.

Should you use a tooth pick?
A toothpick could cause quite 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 take a battering when one uses the toothpick too aggressively. Toothpicks are the most commonly swallowed items, making them a danger to you as well.

Is dental floss safe for you?
Although dental floss is generally more effective than toothpicks, it can also damage your teeth and gums if not used properly.

For proper use of dental floss; Wrap each end of a length of floss around your index fingers, and use your thumbs for leverage as you carefully manoeuver the floss between your teeth.

Angle the floss around the side of one tooth and gently move it up and down.

Angle the floss around the other tooth and repeat the movement. Your dentist can best explain to you how to use dental floss.
I recommend you visit any professional dental care provider for a thorough check-up to ascertain what the cause might be.
The writer is a dentist

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