Why You Should Never Use A Toothpick And What To Do If One Breaks Off Between Your Teeth

Toothpicks are offered at nearly every restaurant, and hardly anyone thinks twice about using one to get food out from between their teeth. However, toothpicks can actually endanger your teeth and gums. If you don't know about their hidden danger, or one has actually broken off between your teeth, read this guide to find out more.

Why They're Dangerous

Despite the fact that toothpicks are used to get food out from between teeth, they are not dental tools. Toothpicks are typically made of wood or plastic, and can easily break or splinter off between your teeth. They're also not narrow enough to actually between most teeth, and trying to wedge them in can harm you.

What Not To Do if One Breaks

If a toothpick snaps off or leaves a splinter between your teeth, it's important to not panic, and to not worsen the situation. While these might be your first impulses, don't:

  • Floss - Flossing is great for getting food out from between your teeth, but it can wedge the toothpick remnant into your gums or deeper between your teeth.
  • Brush - Your toothbrush can potentially catch on the jagged end of the toothpick, ripping it out and potentially cutting your gums.
  • Rinse - Rinsing could potentially loosen up the toothpick, but if it comes out while you're rinsing, it can potentially stab you in the gums, cheek, tongue, or even go down your throat.

What To Do

As soon as you learn that there's a toothpick portion stuck between your teeth, you should call a dentist. Set up an emergency appointment to have the remnant safely removed.

While you wait to see the dentist, there are a couple of things you can do depending on the tools you have available to you.

A professional-grade dental scaler can be used to nudge the shard down and away from your gums. Don't try to remove it completely, but you can use it to get some space between your gums and the shard to prevent irritation, cuts, and inflammation.

Dental wax, which can be found in the dental section of most grocery and general stores, can be applied to your teeth and gum line around the shard. Gently apply the wax above and below the shard to your gums and teeth. This will prevent the shard from moving and provide some cushion between your gums and the shard. 

Using a toothpick to get gunk out from between your teeth can be enticing, but you shouldn't do it. If there's debris between your teeth, use floss or a water flosser to get it out. However, if you or those you care about ever have a toothpick break off between your teeth, follow these tips to reduce your discomfort and risk of injury.