dental checkup

Toothpicks

Why Toothpicks Shouldn’t Be Your Pick for a Dental Tool

Toothpicks. You see them everywhere: minty-fresh and plastic wrapped next to the cash register at your neighborhood diner, spearing a bite-size cheese cube and sporting colorful plastic frills at a cocktail party, swimming in a martini and wearing nothing but an olive at the bar, or simply resting in a box of 100 at your local grocery store. In fact, toothpicks are so readily available, it may seem hard to believe that they could be bad for you in any way. The truth is, however, frequently using toothpicks can damage your teeth and gums, and lead to swallowing splinters and worse.

Toothpicks are old news
Toothpicks are primitive devices that are the oldest dental cleaning tool around. Fossils of 7,500-year-old teeth suggest that humans were using wooden sticks to clean their teeth a long time before toothbrushes were even thought about. But again, this is because these ancient people didn’t have any alternative. Here are a few reasons why jabbing a stick around in your mouth in hopes of dislodging food, today, may not be such a great idea:

  • Lacerating gums. If you use toothpicks frequently and roughly, you could risk damaging your gums, causing bleeding and tearing.
  • Damaging tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the covering that makes up the outer layer of each tooth. Although it’s pretty tough stuff, it’s still vulnerable to the type of damage chewing on a toothpick can easily cause.
  • Damaging tooth roots. If your gums have pulled away from your tooth roots, they could be especially prone to damage by a toothpick. Not to mention the fact that touching exposed tooth roots with anything at all can also be very painful.
  • Chipping veneers or crowns. Vigorous toothpick use can cause both to become damaged or even fall out altogether.
  • Splinters. Toothpicks can fall apart and leave splinters in your gums, tongue and throat, which are not only painful and hard to remove, but could also result in a dangerous infection.
  • Swallowing. Toothpicks could kill you. In fact, on average, there are about 9000 choking incidents reported each year from someone either swallowing or inhaling a toothpick.

So what should I use?
Sure, toothpicks can remove food debris from between teeth, but dentists recommend other cleaning alternatives that are much less damaging to your teeth and gums, including:

  • Dental floss. Dental floss or tape can quickly and effectively remove food particles without damaging teeth or gums. Flossing also removes plaque, which can lead to cavities, and promotes healthy gums, protecting you from gingivitis and periodontitis.
  • Interdental brush. Interdental brushes have small bristled heads that are designed specifically to fit between your teeth. Like floss, they can dislodge bits of food and clean plaque from surfaces that can’t be reached just by brushing.

So should I ever use a toothpick?
The best answer to this question is simple: only when you’ve got no other choice. As discussed above, there are many things that make toothpicks bad for teeth. And perhaps the only thing they have going for them is that they are portable and convenient to carry. If you have a bit of food stuck in your teeth that is painful or irritating and a toothpick is your only option, then it’s better to remove it for your own comfort.

But even then, it’s important to ask yourself just how frequently you are having to use that toothpick. We’ve all experienced a niggling bit of food getting stuck between your teeth every now and then. No big deal, right? Well, if it happens on a regular basis and (most importantly) in the same place each time, then that is reason enough to visit the dentist. That’s because food can become stuck due to fillings that haven’t been properly finished, teeth that have shifted or teeth that have developed a hole due to decay. And if you’re just relying on toothpicks to try to remedy these problems, you’re probably going to be seeing much bigger problems down the line.

So, are toothpicks bad? No, toothpicks are great … glued together to create memorable fourth-grade art projects, stuck in a birthday cake to see if it is ready to take out of the oven, and for hundreds of other uses. But are toothpicks bad for you? Yes, especially if they’re used frequently or without sufficient care for your teeth and gums. And because there are other ways that are so much better at getting bits of food free from your teeth, there is really no reason to resort to some crude tool that was invented by primitive man.

The Aging Mouth: What is Normal, What is Not

 

The natural process of aging takes its toll on your teeth and mouth just as it does your body. Here are some common oral health changes you can anticipate as you age:
Enamel Wear — Chewing, cleaning and the normal aging process means your teeth will eventually wear down over time.
Darker Tooth Color — Aging dentin (the tooth’s middle layer) holds stains easier than younger dentin, making your teeth appear slightly darker.
Gum Changes — Aging gums naturally recede over time.
Cavities — Cavities around the root of the tooth are more common as you age. Any fillings you have are also aging and can weaken or crack.
Other changes to your teeth and gums aren’t normal and shouldn’t be overlooked. These symptoms could signal something more serious and are reason to see your dentist right away:
Tooth Loss — Dental cavities and gum disease are the leading culprits of tooth loss in seniors, but neither is a normal part of aging. If your teeth and gums are healthy, there’s no reason why your teeth should fall out.
Dry Mouth – As you age, you may notice a reduced flow of saliva, sometimes as a side effect of medical conditions, medications or medical treatment. Saliva is important because it lubricates the mouth and neutralizes the acids produced by plaque.
Bleeding Gums — Bleeding gums are a sign of periodontal (gum) disease, a leading cause of tooth loss in seniors. But gum disease is not an inevitable result of aging; it’s caused by the build up of plaque. Left untreated, gum disease is linked to other health concerns like arthritis and heart disease.

Braces Built for Busy Adults

 

If you needed braces as a child but didn’t get them, you can still benefit from an improved smile and better oral health by wearing dental braces in your adult years. However, because traditional braces can take longer the older you are, more and more adults are turning to speed braces. Unlike conventional metal braces – which take an average of 12-20 months – speed braces typically take just 6-9 months to straighten your teeth.
One of the best features of speed dental braces is the slide mechanism of the self-ligating brackets: The wire slides through the brackets as the teeth move, allowing your teeth to move more freely, quickly and comfortably. This slide technology also helps reduce the friction between the brackets and wire, which means that you’ll need fewer adjustments.
The self-ligating brackets on speed dental braces can also help promote better oral health than those of braces past: Because the brackets are smaller in size, it’s easier to brush and floss your teeth. And since speed dental braces are left on your teeth for a shorter period of time, you’re teeth are less likely to develop the yellow or brown spots that traditional metal braces can cause.
Invest in speed braces, and you’ll reap both tangible and intangible rewards. If smiling was never easy for you, it will be. Many patients say they felt a boost in self-esteem after treatment, which made it easier to smile and interact with others. Braces can also make it easier to digest food! If your teeth and jaws are misaligned, you may have problems chewing food properly, which can overtax your digestive system and cause stomachaches. With straight teeth, smiling and eating can be a pleasure again.

Dental Care Checklist for Infants

 

See the dentist by age 1. Schedule your infant’s first dental visit by the age of 1 or after the first tooth erupts.
Clean baby’s gums. Use gauze to clean your infant’s gums after feedings and at bedtime. Ideally, this should be done even before your baby’s first tooth erupts.
Brush baby teeth. Once your infant’s baby teeth erupt, brush them with a small soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste after feedings and at bedtime.
Floss baby teeth. When two baby teeth erupt side by side, gently floss them at least once a day (preferably before bedtime).
Wean baby from the bottle. Ask your pediatrician when you should stop breastfeeding. Bottle-fed babies should be weaned from the bottle by the age of 1.
Keep an Eye On:
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay – Keep your infant’s teeth healthy by cleaning them after feedings, and avoid putting your baby to bed with formula or fruit juice (these contain decay-causing sugars); use water instead.
Signs of Teething — Your infant’s first tooth can erupt, or “cut,” as early as three months and as late as a year. Teeth symptoms can vary greatly, but if your baby becomes increasingly irritable or starts drooling, biting and coughing more than normal, he or she could be teething. Try a teething ring or bottle of cold water for relief.
Excessive Pacifier Use – If your infant uses a pacifier for more than three years, he or she may develop slanted teeth or a misaligned bite later. If you have a difficult time weaning your infant from pacifier use, ask us about alternative ways to give the comfort your little one craves.

Regular Checkups Can Save You Thousands

If you have dental problems like tooth decay, gum disease or even oral cancer, regular dental visits give your dentist a chance to catch it early on. That’s key. Because the earlier your dentist diagnoses a problem the easier it is to treat. For example, if you have gum disease and let it go unchecked (and untreated) for too long, you may need extensive — and expensive — gum disease treatment.
Regular dental checkups allow you and your dentist to stay ahead of problems, which can translate into thousands saved.
A professional dental cleaning is also a must because it’s the only way to effectively remove tartar (hardened plaque). Even if you brush and floss regularly, that’s not enough. Besides looking unsightly (tartar is a “stain magnet” and often has a brown or yellowish tint), tartar also contains cavity-causing bacteria. Preventing the need for a mouthful of fillings every year easily adds up to thousands saved in the long run.
Perhaps one of the most important reasons to invest in regular dental exams and cleanings is that it has a positive impact on your overall health. Recent studies have shown that there’s a link between periodontal disease and heart disease; when the former is present, the latter is twice as likely.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, gum disease can have a domino effect on your health. The bacteria caused by periodontal disease can enter your bloodstream and attach to your heart’s blood vessels, causing dangerous blood clots. Another scenario is that the plaque buildup caused by periodontal disease can cause the heart’s blood vessels to swell.
In this way, regular checkups and cleanings are not only money-saving but life-saving. And that’s priceless.