We’ve all been there…

You’re enjoying some nice buttery popcorn as you kick back and watch a movie, and then it happens…

The dreaded popcorn kernel in the gums!

It’s the worst, right! And don’t get us started about corn on the cobb!

The question becomes this: When random particles of food decide to snuggle themselves in for a midwinter’s nap under your gumline or between your molars, do you reach for a toothpick or do you reach for some dental floss? There are a million things that get stuck in our teeth every day like toffee, bread, meat and more… So, what’s the best way to get stuff out of our teeth?

(And in case you’re wondering… Yes, at Columbia River Dentistry we are dental nerds and do sit around debating topics like this. You should join us in our world. It’s a fun place to live!)

Grandma and Grandpa always had a little shot glass/cup thingy in the middle of their dining table filled with toothpicks for after dinner. And after every meal, Grandpa kicked back with toothpick in hand and began his handywork.

On the other end of the spectrum… Mom always reminded us, “don’t forget to floss before bed!”

So, who’s right? Let’s take a closer look and see if we can decide.



Toothpicks are designed to “dislodge” particles of food from your teeth and you should be pretty careful not to go much beyond that. You don’t want to force a toothpick between your teeth, and while they are quite handy getting random leftovers out of unwanted places, they aren’t really made for cleaning between the teeth or along the gum line.

And if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, an overzealous tooth picker like Grandpa can actually run into some significant problems down the road, like damaging the papilla (That’s the gums between the teeth for those that don’t speak dentist) and the widening of the spaces between your teeth, making it even easier for food to get stuck there the next time you chop down on an apple or eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread.

If you do have to use a toothpick, softpicks are a better option compared to the standard wooden toothpicks since they are flexible and have tapered synthetic rubber bristles that fit between your teeth.

OK… Aside from removing the occasional piece of food from your teeth, the toothpick isn’t looking so good. But before we make our decision, let’s meet the challenger!



Dental floss is meant for more than getting food out of your teeth. It’s meant for cleaning.

The handy little mint flavored string is great for cleaning between teeth, under dental work, and along the gum line. But like toothpicks, you still need to be gentle when you use it. If you get too carried away it can also cause damage to your gums.

And before we crown floss the champion, let’s not forget the downsides of flossing.

1. It’s tedious. The last thing you want to do when you’re dragging yourself to bed is take the extra two minutes to floss. It’s easier to just brush and call it a night. We get it… we’ve been there.

2. We’re not sure of a better way to say this, so we’ll just say it: it SUCKS when the floss gets shredded in your teeth and leaves little floss hair fragments in between your teeth.

3. What about people with big fingers? Let’s not kid ourselves and think it’s easy for them to maneuver that floss in between their teeth.

These are just a few reasons people just forget about flossing and opt for a toothpick or nothing at all…



At the end of the day, a toothpick should never replace brushing or flossing. Our dentists here at Columbia River Dentistry (And your mom) will always tell you to keep flossing, and it’s because it works. It keeps your teeth clean, your gums healthy, your breath bearable, and your smile bright.

If you are out to eat and you get some random food in your teeth, gently using a toothpick to get it out is a great option. But make sure you do it where nobody can see… come on!! Your mom taught you this, right!?

You can avoid a lot of the drawbacks of floss by choosing the right floss.

• Use waxed flosses. These will slide easier between your teeth and don’t generally fray or shred.

• Pick the right size of floss. There is thin floss and wide floss. Depending on the space between your teeth, you’ll want to get a floss that matches accordingly.

• Try floss holders. These are those pre-threaded floss devises that you’ll find in a bag of 50 or 100. This is a good option for people that have a hard time reaching back into their mouth because of large hands or lack of dexterity.

Now that we’ve settled the debate, we can all move on with our life using toothpicks as needed and flossing every day to keep our teeth clean! For more exciting and exhilarating debates like this and for a bright and happy smile, you should come visit us at one of our Vancouver or Portland locations. Our dentists, hygienists and office staff are friendly and fun, and who knows… maybe you’ll actually have fun at your next dental appointment. When was the last time you could say that??

Still, toothpicks should never replace flossing or brushing. They are simply used to occasionally remove a piece of food that has gotten stuck in your teeth.

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