people smiling after using dental picks to clean teeth

The Role Of The Dental Pick For Plaque Removal

There's an old proverb that notes, "Nothing worth having comes easy." That certainly applies to a healthy smile. A set of shiny pearly whites isn't as simple as brushing for 10 seconds. Plaque is a main culprit that will wreak havoc on your teeth and gums. One of the ways people choose to prevent plaque collecting on their teeth is by using a dental pick. Here's all you need to know about this interdental cleaner and whether you should add it to your daily oral care toolbox.

Plaque Problems

Plaque is a soft, sticky film that constantly collects on your teeth. You can notice plaque once it has been at the gumline for a few days. Over time, plaque hardens into a layer known as tartar. Tartar can only be removed by a dental professional through a professional cleaning.

If it isn't removed on a regular basis, plaque can collect along the gumline and cause cavities, gingivitis and gum disease to form. Cavities form when plaque acids attack teeth after a meal. These acids eventually break down tooth enamel, the protective layer found on all teeth. In extreme cases, teeth can become decayed and a person may experience tooth pain.

Plaque Removal

Flossing is one way to remove plaque, because it eliminates food particles that get caught in places a toothbrush can't reach, such as in between teeth, but the toothbrush can reach along the gumline. But some people find using dental floss is a challenge for reasons ranging from manual dexterity to difficulty using it with braces. An alternative to floss is the dental pick.

Examining Dental Picks

A dental pick is a thin stick made of wood or plastic. Any product you use should have earned the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Approval. In the case of a wooden pick, moisten it in your mouth first to soften the wood, advises the ADA. Once it's ready to use, insert it between your teeth while making sure the narrow flat part is adjacent to the gums. Use a gentle motion to riemove food debris and plaque from between your teeth. Don't ever force it into tight teeth.

For those who wear braces, a dental pick allows for better maneuverability in between teeth than floss. But there are some concerns about dental picks. Flossing is a better choice for cleaning between teeth and gums. The sliding action of the floss not only allows getting between teeth, but also along a tooth's entire length.

Another reason why picks may not be as effective as floss is that picks only have one point that can reach between teeth. If a pick dislodges food particles and then moves on to the next space, the bacteria and particles remaining on the pick may be spread to the next tooth. That is why a pick would need to be wiped off or rinsed under water to remove food debris and plaque. On the other hand, a strand of floss is long enough where a new section can be used for each groove.

Whether you prefer traditional floss or a dental pick, the bigger picture is that you practice regular oral care. That starts at home with brushing at least twice each day complemented by regular flossing. Try a toothpaste like Colgate TotalSF Clean Mint toothpaste. Its fluoride formula strengthens teeth to help prevent cavities, plaque and tartar buildup. And though you might be diligent with your daily tooth regimen, you're cheating yourself if you don't schedule regular dental checkups. A dentist will be able to verify that you're properly taking care of your teeth and gums while also identifying any potential mouth issues before they become a bigger health issue.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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