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AN EASTERN EDUCATION
Whilst I've always known toothpicks exist, it wasn't until I started travelling out to SE Asia in my Gap Year back in the mid 1990's that I actually saw people use them in public.
I went out to Asia to do voluntary teaching work with several big organisations, and I remember going to several restaurants and noodle bars in Hong Kong and Taiwan and seeing people helping themselves to the toothpicks that were always set out in a little pot in the centre of the table. Sometimes they were loose and uncovered, but more often than not they were individually wrapped inside paper sleeves, not dissimilar to the sachet packs of salt, pepper and sugar we're used to in restaurants in the West.
After experiencing a flash of shock, then surprise, I started surreptitiously observing how people were using them, and then, in the spirit of When in Rome...I had a go myself.
I observed that after a meal, it was customary to select a toothpick, unwrap it and then hold one hand cupped in front of your mouth, similar to if you were hiding a yawn. You then tipped your head down towards your plate, and with the other hand you used the toothpick to scrape away the food detritus, particularly bits of fish or meat from between your teeth. After use, the toothpick was discarded on the side of the plate.
The toothpicks were always made of a soft wood or bamboo and around 4cm long. Unlike cocktail sticks the ends were only slightly tapered with blunt ends.
It was really embarrassing at first, but after a few tries when out at meals with Asian friends I got more comfortable doing it. As a tall, pale-skinned Westerner I felt especially self-conscious but after a few tries I got fairly adept at using a toothpick.
Once I got over my ingrained Westerner embarrassment and mild disgust over picking my teeth in public it proved to be actually a really practical way of clearing annoying bits of food from between my teeth, and, with the help of a little mirror, it made it a lot easier to remove bits of green vegetable that were stuck on my front teeth!
Despite the toothpicks being made out of wood/bamboo I never encountered splinters on the toothpicks I used (so I presume they were actually made of bamboo out there). I also found that after a few seconds my saliva softened the material, making it easier to manoevre the stick into smaller interdental gaps.
IS WEST BEST?
Back in the West, I'm used to sucking a sweet, or doing gymnastics with my tongue to dislodge an irritating bit of food, but the toothpick approach was far easier and quicker. Once in a while I purchase toothpicks in the UK, but I always use them in the privacy of my own home!
I've found big packs of them available for pennies on Amazon, but they're always labelled as cocktail sticks/toothpicks, and, as stated above, the toothpicks I encountered in Hong Kong and Taiwan were subtly different in design to the cocktail sticks we widely use in Britain. Also I've found that some sticks in every pack are prone to splintering - not good when used for oral hygiene!
Nowadays, if I want to buy some I pick them up in a Chinese supermarket, as then I know I'm getting (a) a product that won't stab me in the mouth and (b) is made of bamboo and thus far less likely to splinter.
Nowadays we are able to purchase plastic interdental brushes which fulfil the role of the humble toothpick, and, of course, nylon dental floss has always been available for removing bits of gunk from between your teeth. Whilst these have their place, I can't help thinking that bamboo toothpicks are kinder to your mouth, and, being biodegradable they are kinder to the environment too.
I think there's a lot to be said for the attitudes I encountered back in the East, where it's socially acceptable to use toothpicks in public. Back here in Blighty, we have to contort our tongue, or use a discrete fingernail to dislodge a particle of food; no acceptable public dental maintenance ritual for us!
Yes I really am going to write a review on toothpicks. Reason being my partner has left a tube of them next to me and I wandered if there was an option to review them and sure enough here it is.
Toothpicks are called that for the obvious reason that you pick at your teeth with them removing left over food. My partner had a tooth problem last week and oh boy did I know about it. He was constantly whilst not complaining was digging at his bad tooth until we managed to get him to the dentist.
I picked him up a tube of toothpicks from Asda, They come in a plastic small square tube and the top has a hole so that you can shake them and one will be released from the hole. This saves having to open up the tube each time you require one and also saves the risk of them all ending up on the floor.
They cost under 40p a tube and contain 100 sticks. Each stick or pick has a very sharp pointed end which could cause damage if care not taken with them. Definitely keep away from children. These particular ones are wooden but sometimes you can get plastic types too.
China has overtaken Brazil's toothpick industry bringing in approximately US$24 billion per year from the export of toothpicks. See many people must use these. This info is taken from wikipedia website.
I know some people may prefer to use dental floss or good old toothbrush method to clean teeth lol but if you are in a restaurant this wouldn't be possible. I wouldn't feel comfortable reaching for the dental floss yet would happily sit using a tooth pick as many others do.
Ok so we know you can pick away at your teeth with these but have they any other uses?
Well yes I can use them to pick up strawberries which are about to be dipped into chocolate, They hold them well and slip out easily when they are set.
Also another use is to use them to clean out tricky places around the home, for example the grouting between tiles, edges of flooring and that stubborn bit on the cooker that the cloth won't remove.
When using for your teeth do be careful not to slip as they could make your gums bleed as they are that sharp.
Ohh a new use for me is a cheese and pineapple hedgehog, halve a pineapple, stick toothpicks full of cheese and pineapple chunks into it, perfect party centre piece.
Right then..... why are you reading a review on toothpicks?
Why am I writing one? Well let me tell you a story:-
One fine summers day I woke up with a great apetite. I was in need of some greasy food so I decided to whack some bacon in the George Foreman and make a bacon sandwich. After smothering the sandwich in Brown sauce (the only option for a bacon sandwich) I proceeded to eat it and enjoyed it very much.
This enjoyment, however was tainted as soon as I realised there were bits of bacon stuck between my teeth!!! :-o
I went in to a state of shock and panik, searching around the house for something that would get the bits out. I tried everything from the vacuum cleaner to a stanley knife, but to no avail.
Just as I was about to give up and burst into tears my phone rang... it was an anonymous number, but I still answered, albeit apprehensively.
"Seek out the toothpicks and you will forever be happy"
Is what the mysterious voice relayed to me, and then hung up. I knew this was a sign, it was my calling.
So I went to the shops and purchased a whole container's worth of toothpicks and took them home. "What to do with these toothpicks though?" I thought. I was confused so got one out the container for further inspection. Still non the wiser I sat there confused and still pissed off that I had bacon in my teeth.
I sat there fiddling with the stick for what must have been 5 minutes and had just about given up, when sub-consciously, I slipped the toothpick into my mouth and flicked around......
I had dislodged some of the bacon!!!
This feeling was great, it was like being born again! I have never experienced anything quite like it in my life. Who would of thought you could get bits out of your teeth with such a small delicate wooden stick?
Not me thats for sure.
Anyway, this product is good and comes highly recommended (you can even remove bits from your teeth) but they don't last long. I used a whole container in just one day.
(Do you really want to wait until dooyoo has picked up and added a category for toothpicks? I couldn't hold back any longer so I've posted my op here. Please, don't be picky!)
Once in Italy when we were waiting for our meals in a restaurant and trying to get olives which were offered as starters out of a bowl using forks, spoons, toothpicks and fingers (best), a German friend of mine said, "If my husband starts picking his teeth with a toothpick, I'm going to divorce him." They've been married for 30 years now, so either she's given in or hubbie has behaved.
None of my German friends use toothpicks at home, I know only one (a self-service veggie) restaurant which has them, not on the tables, though, but hidden under the counter. My GB toothpick research person (Ta muchly, Maryanne!) informs me that she knows quite a lot of people who use toothpicks at home, but she doesn't know of any restaurants where they stand on the tables.
Why do the peoples north of the Alps have a disturbed relationship towards toothpicks whereas the southern European peoples offer them openly, use them, can't imagine life without them? Hopefully, you'll get a lot of answers here to questions you (understandably) never asked, but I don't know the answer to this question, it 'll remain a mystery.
Toothpicks are the oldest devices for tooth care. *STOP!* Make a guess, how old?
When some anthropologists were cleaning a tooth found in Tanzania, dating back as far as 1.8 million years (you didn't guess that, did you?), they found some strange grooves in it, tiny, parallel lines that repeated along the sides of the tooth.
(From the net) "The size, shape and orientation of the grooves point to evidence of someone trying to shove something narrow into a small space between their teeth - early traces of toothpick use. The object would have to have been
sharp to leave marks on the enamel and the dentin - the hominids may have used pieces of bone, or grit on a stick may have caused the grooves."
Toothpicks aren't only the oldest device for tooth care, no, the use of toothpicks is one of the features which distinguishes human beings from animals. It's a behaviour unique to our genus, modern-day apes do not use toothpicks although they've been recorded using sticks as tools in other ways.
Why would our ancestors in their caves pick their teeth in front of the fire? It's believed that toothpick use became common about the same time meat turned up in the diet of the early hominids.
Do I see the veggies turn away? Wait! Just remember your last meal with tomato sauce, what did you do when you discovered some tomato pips had got stuck in your teeth? Did you pull faces and produce vulgar noises in order to get them out or did you take a toothpick, cover your mouth with one hand while using it with the other as is the polite way to deal with lodged fragments of food?
Supposedly, the toothpick was first used in the U.S. at the Union Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in Boston, opened in 1826. I'm sure you want to know that 90% of the country's wooden toothpick supply is produced in Maine. A certain Mr Charles Forster of Maine first imported the picks from South America and to promote his new business he hired Harvard boys to dine in his restaurant and ask for toothpicks.
In 1872 a toothpick-making machine was patented in the USA, it converted a block of wood into toothpicks. How many toothpicks can be made from a cord of wood (a cord = 128 cubic feet / 3.62 cubic metres)? *STOP!* Make a guess!
Sorry, wrong again, the answer is 7.5 million!
Toothpicks aren't only made of wood. In 1832 Monsieur Soyez, a Frenchman who raised geese to produce downs for pillows and blankets and fine quality writing instruments had an
inspiration: he used a sanitised goose quill he had sharpened to clean his teeth and thus invented a device which, according to his devoted followers, has made the wooden toothpick quite inadequate.
Soon the demand exceeded the availability of goose quills, with the invention of high impact plastics, an even better way was found to make 'quill' toothpicks. The plastic variety is more durable and retains its fine cleaning qualities even with much use. In our times over one million 'Cure-dents' are passed out each day at the Soyez factory in France.
Any other materials? In 1882 a Joseph Mayer opened a store, saloon and stagecoach station near Phoenix, Arizona, where he sold green horn tourists cactus thorns he claimed were genuine Indian toothpicks.
I've got a flat silver toothpick in my wallet and whenever I feel like picking I take it out discreetly.
And you? If you don't belong to the pro toothpick party yet, but would like to join, you can go to Boots and pick the item Boots Essential Dental Sticks from the shelves there, 125 sticks for 1.79 pounds. Made from nordic pine they do not splinter (good to know, eh?). They come in an attractive turquoise opaque flip down lid box, so that you don't have to be ashamed if you're seen with them in public.