AskDefine | Define toothpick

Dictionary Definition

toothpick n : pick consisting of a small strip of wood or plastic; used to pick food from between the teeth

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A small, usually wooden stick, often pointed at both ends, for removing food residue from the area between the teeth.


stick for removing food residue from the area between the teeth

Related terms

Extensive Definition

A toothpick is a small stick of wood, plastic, bamboo, metal or other substance used to remove detritus from the teeth, usually after a meal. A toothpick usually has one or two sharp ends to insert between teeth. They can also be used for picking up small appetizers (like cheese cubes or olives) or as a cocktail stick.
American wooden toothpicks are cut from birch wood. Logs are first spiral cut into thin sheets, which are then cut, chopped and milled into the individual toothpicks. Maine is the leading producer of toothpicks for the United States.


The toothpick has been around longer than our species. The skulls of Neanderthals, as well as Homo sapiens, have shown clear signs of having teeth that were picked with a tool.
It is the oldest instrument for dental cleaning. Toothpicks are well-known in all cultures. Before the toothbrush was invented, one cleaned one's teeth with hard and soft dental woods. Toothpicks made of bronze have been found as burial objects in prehistoric graves in Northern Italy and in the East Alps. It was also well-known in Mesopotamia.
There are delicate, artistic examples made of silver in antiquity, as well as from mastic wood with the Romans.
In the 17th century toothpicks were luxury objects similar to jewelery items. They were formed from precious metal and set with expensive stones. Frequently they were artistically stylized and enameled.
The first toothpick-manufacturing machine was patented in 1872, by Silas Noble and J. P. Cooley.
Nowadays other means of dental hygiene are preferred like the dental floss and toothbrushes, but the usefulness of the toothpick is apparent in the fact that the plastic version of this device is a firm component of the Swiss Army knife.

See also

Further reading


toothpick in Old English (ca. 450-1100): Tōþpīc
toothpick in Arabic: عود تخليل أسنان
toothpick in Bengali: দাঁত খড়কে
toothpick in Catalan: Escuradents
toothpick in Czech: Párátko
toothpick in German: Zahnstocher
toothpick in Modern Greek (1453-): Οδοντογλυφίδα
toothpick in Spanish: Mondadientes
toothpick in French: Cure-dent
toothpick in Korean: 이쑤시개
toothpick in Indonesian: Tusuk gigi
toothpick in Italian: Stuzzicadenti
toothpick in Macedonian: Чепкалка за заби
toothpick in Dutch: Tandenstoker
toothpick in Japanese: 爪楊枝
toothpick in Norwegian: Tannpirker
toothpick in Polish: Wykałaczka
toothpick in Portuguese: Palito
toothpick in Russian: Зубочистка
toothpick in Sicilian: Palicu
toothpick in Slovenian: Zobotrebec
toothpick in Finnish: Hammastikku
toothpick in Swedish: Tandpetare
toothpick in Thai: ไม้จิ้มฟัน
toothpick in Chinese: 牙籤
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