When leaving nearly any restaurant, chances are patrons will find toothpicks at the counter. Isn’t it amazing how a simple split of wood can dislodge food debris wedged between teeth?
The toothpick is as basic as it gets. The primary state that manufactures wood toothpicks is Maine. Fifty billion toothpicks are made there each year, accounting for 90 percent of all manufactured toothpicks. Many toothpicks are made from white birch wood, a relatively strong wood that has close unreconstructed graining when cut into veneer sheets. Flat toothpicks are simply stamped from this sheeted veneer, and round picks go through a rounder milling process. Most wooden picks are convenient for traveling because they’re disposable and come in small storage cases.
Sunstar Butler, makers of Go-Betweens picks, uses birch wood to make their disposable picks. Designed for on-the-go use, these toothpicks are designed for gentle stimulation of tissue. Unique to these picks is that they contain mint-flavored xylitol, a cavity-fighting sweetener. Johnson & Johnson offers a wooden pick called Stimudents made from balsa wood, which gives the wedge a softer feel. This pick is mint-flavored and shaped to clean between teeth. Oral-B offers mint-flavored, extra fine Woodsticks. The TePe Company offers interdental sticks in birch and linden woods, and also a plastic stick. Because they have an extra slim design and a more triangular shape, these picks shimmy into patients’ narrow spaces.
Trick to the pick
It is important to demonstrate the use of wooden picks chairside because patients tend to insert a toothpick interproximally and wiggle it about. They don’t think about tracing along the buccal and lingual aspects of the tooth margin.
At the gingival margin a wooden pick should be used in a tracing motion. Missing these surfaces, especially when an exposed furcation is present, hinders tissue health because bacteria left untouched can build. The tip should be maintained by using some pressure to disturb plaque accumulation, and a right angle should be used around each tooth. However, a pick should never be forced into a tight embrasure with heavy-handed pressure. Wooden picks may splinter and fray during use, so when patients gnaw on a toothpick and then use it interproximally, the chance for a splinter in the gum increases. To assist with proper placement, toothpick holders with various angulated positions are designed with precise angles to accommodate a wooden toothpick for concave plaque removal.
Toothpicks that maneuver around gingiva and remove plaque come not only in wood, but also plastic. Plastic styles can be specially molded for different manufacturers’ specifications. Plastic picks are flexible, can be reused, come in large quantities, and are available in travel containers perfect for portable use.
The Pick-A-Dent plastic interdental plaque pick from Denticator removes food debris with an unbreakable double end pick in a compact three-inch length. Pick-A-Dent picks may be water boiled and reused many times. Hydrofloss Company’s new Floss & Brush is packaged 100 picks to a pack. With a tapered ergonomic plastic design, the pick is flexible and the flat side fits towards the gum. It has a mesh tip with a time-released fluoride woven into it that is applied to the surface during use. Another distinctive pick, the Floss Brush offered by DenTek, also has fluoride along the tip.
Flat picks are intended to conform to interproximal spaces because the gentle in and out motion cleans between teeth and massages gums. Plackers Piks brand picks use a flattened design and incorporate it into a super slim triangular shaped product. Plackers Piks flexibly fill interdental space, stimulating tissues and hard to reach surfaces. A non-splintering, bendable plastic pick designed to stimulate tissues known as the Proxi-Stik is offered by AIT Dental.
Pro-Dentec offers a polypropylene (lightweight plastic, moisture resistant) pick perfect for interdental cleaning called the Rota-Point. The point effectively stimulates tissues in the areas where plaque removal is difficult. An advantage of the Rota-Point is its ability to be manipulated. When patients encounter a difficult space, the point may be molded to fit without the worry of splitting or breaking. Practices can use Rota-Points as a marketing tool through Pro-Dentec’s personalized storage case offer.
Not all picks are molded solid. The Therapic interdental pick from Radcam Corporation is made of rolled spiral plastic and with a hollow design. As the hollow tip passes over plaque, debris is loosened and food particles are easily removed. The flexible opposite end stimulates interproximal space with a spiral surface and without gouging the gums.
Interproximal spaces between teeth require special maintenance, especially when the space lacks a plump of papilla. When crown-to-crown borders collect plaque, margins become a haven for plaque accumulation on minute ledges. With bacterial invasion, caries incidence and periodontal deterioration may become elevated. Slim picks can maneuver even the tiniest spaces. Patients and practitioners have found that picks work well on orthodontic brackets and bridgework, and many are safe on dental implants. When floss fumbles, interpapillary stimulation with wooden wedges and plastic picks can effectively remove much of the bacteria from proximal surfaces.
The author did not receive compensation for products mentioned. For more pick info ask your local dental representative or visit www.sunstarbutler.com, www.denticator.com, www.hydrofloss.com,www.usdentek.com,www.plackers.com, www.aitdental.com, www.prodentec.com, and www.therapic.com.