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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.

Them Bones, Them Bones…

Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth! You’ve heard it before, but how much calcium are you actually getting?
An extremely important mineral for dental and overall health, calcium aids in preventing dental problems and osteoporosis. Actually, 99 percent of the calcium found in our bodies is located in our bones and teeth! But calcium does so much more — it also helps with blood clotting, sending nerve signals, releasing hormones and enzymes, as well as muscle and blood vessel contraction and relaxation.

Much like we change our hairstyles or clothes to resemble the latest fashions, our bones are constantly reinventing themselves. Our bones are continuously undergoing a process called resorption, which is the breakdown of bone tissue. When bone is lost, calcium is deposited to help new bone form. In order to best utilize new bone formation, calcium needs to be taken continuously, and over a long period of time.

As we age, we tend to lose more bone, and it becomes harder for calcium to keep up with our changing bodies. If there’s not a significant amount of calcium, our bones can become brittle and porous in old age. The weaker our skeletal systems, the greater our chances of ending up with bone fractures or jaw deterioration, which leads to tooth loss. And the more the jaw deteriorates, the harder it is for your mouth to support dental restorations, such as dental implants and dentures.

Calcium is equally important to your periodontal health! According to the American Academy of Periodontology, a diet low in calcium can increase your chances of getting gum disease. An infection caused by bacteria that attack your gums, periodontal disease will eventually break down your gum tissue and destroy the surrounding bone. As calcium supports your jawbone, it strengthens it against the bacteria that lead to gum disease and eventual tooth loss. Combined with gum disease treatment, a significant calcium intake can prevent gum disease from progressing. Consuming at least three servings of calcium-laden foods will help you meet your daily requirements.

Making Dental Visits Easy for Kids

 

With your help, dental visits can be a positive – even fun – experience for your kids. Our staff will spend a lot of time with your kids to help them feel comfortable and understand what they can expect. You can help us make their next visit a successful one by working with us to accomplish this goal!
Here’s what we suggest:
·        Use only positive words when answering your kids’ questions. Soft, easy, fun and play are good words to use.
·        Avoid using words like pain, hurt, needle and shot. These words make kids (and many adults) scared and anxious.
·        After treatment is completed, you can help continue the positive experience by praising your child and referring to the fun time they just had.
·        DON’T ask negative questions like: Did it hurt? Were you scared? Did you get a shot? These comments could make your child think that there was a reason to be afraid even though they were cooperative and had a good time. It might also make them afraid of future visits.
If your child receives any kind of anesthesia, assure them that their “tickly” or “sleepy” tongue will go away in no time. Most kids don’t mind the numbness, and some even think it’s fun – that’s a good thing.

Preventive Dentistry Starts at Home

The main responsibility of preventive care falls on you! In order to reduce your chances of getting a dental disease, you have to take care of yourself. Consider the following points when it comes to your preventive dentistry program:

Oral Hygiene — Brushing and flossing removes dental plaque, a film-like substance that is constantly forming on your teeth. If not removed, dental plaque can build up over time and produce dental tartar, a hardened, sticky substance which harbors the acid-producing bacteria that generate tooth decay. Eventually, dental tartar will creep under the gum line, leading to gum disease as well.

Diet — A good diet is incredibly important to your dental health. Not only do foods that contain sugars and carbohydrates feed the bacteria that produce dental plaque, but studies also show a diet low in calcium can increase your chances of ending up with periodontal disease and jaw deterioration.

Smoking and Drinking — Smoking, chewing tobacco and consuming alcohol can wreak havoc on your mouth! If the dry mouth, tooth discoloration and buildup of dental plaque aren’t enough for you to want to quit smoking, consider this: Smoking causes gum disease, tooth loss and oral cancer.

What are Dental Implants?

Dental implants offer people an alternative to the traditional ways of replacing missing teeth. The actual implant is an artificial root [anchor] made from synthetic material, usually titanium metal. There are three phases to the implant process.

First, the dental implant is surgically placed into the jawbone. It takes 3-6 months to fuse with the bone [called osseointegration]. An abutment [post] is attached to the implant and protrudes above the gum tissue. A replacement restoration is cemented or screwed to the implant abutment. Depending on the situation, dental implants can support a fixed crown or bridge or act as a stabilizing base for a full denture. The procedure can take up to 9-12 months for completion and has a high degree of success.

Some individuals have had so much bone resorption [loss] that the remaining bony ridge is too thin to hold an implant. In many cases, synthetic or natural bone can be grafted [added] or grown to allow for dental implants as an alternative treatment.

Implants have a great advantage for people already wearing full dentures since they can support and stabilize the denture while minimizing further bone loss of the denture ridge.

Not everyone is a good candidate for dental implants. There are certain risk factors that may limit success including smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, chronic bruxism [grinding teeth], systemic problems such as diabetes and individuals with poor oral hygiene.

Dental implants offer a “second chance” to those who have lost all of their teeth. For people missing only one or several teeth, dental implants provide benefits as an alternative way to restore your mouth. To determine if implants are for you, a clinical examination, x-rays, study casts and other appropriate records and measurements will be necessary. Call our office if you have questions or would like to schedule an implant exam.