In the 1870’s, a shrewd business man named Charles Forster went from store to store, asking if they would sell his recently-developed tool. Since there was never any demand for it, the stores declined Mr. Forster’s offer. Mr. Forster hired young people to walk into those establishments, request the tool, and complain if the proprietor did not stock them. He hired Harvard gentlemen to do the same thing at restaurants. Mr. Forster returned within a couple of days, easily able to supply the sudden demand. Of course, the hired individuals returned later and happily purchased the tool. Seeing the result, the sellers spread the word on this new craze. As time went on, this tool became a fashion statement, even a status symbol, with people in books and movies portrayed as casually chewing on them. However, most people today only use this tool after having a meal, and that is why most restaurants have a cache of toothpicks sitting near the register.
Toothpicks Are Not a New Thing
Truthfully, toothpicks have been around for thousands of years. The Romans made toothpicks out of silver and bronze. In seventeenth-century Europe, upper-class individuals had toothpicks of gold or encrusted with gems. Some earlier models were made of bone, porcupine quills, or even the teeth of lizards. But throughout the ages, archaeology has found simple wooden sticks being used as toothpicks.
The Dental Connection to Toothpicks
Thankfully, casually chewing on toothpicks to show how cool you are has pretty much fallen by the wayside. Heavy use could damage your gums, dental appliances, or tooth enamel with too much poking and scraping. Nevertheless, toothpicks are simple and efficient tools to dislodge that piece of lettuce stuck between your molars. Therefore, only use them when necessary. If you need to chew on something, try some gum, a stalk of celery, or a carrot stick.
A more recent, versatile, and safer development is the dental pick. Made of flexible plastic, dental picks are milder on your gums and don’t run the risk of splinters. One end of a dental pick comes to a point, sometimes curved to get between your teeth better. They may feature a strip of dental floss to further assist in cleaning your teeth. Some toothpicks come in flavors like mint or cinnamon, but so do many dental picks. Granted, you wouldn’t walk down the street with a dental pick in your mouth, but who knows? Maybe you’ll start the next fad.
Toothpicks have been around for ages, and they will continue to be on pharmacy shelves and restaurant counters for years more. But they are really a tool of last resort, not a status symbol. Use them carefully and only on occasion. Otherwise, have a toothbrush nearby or use a dental pick instead.