AskDefine | Define toothpicks

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

toothpicks
  1. Plural of toothpick

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.

History

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

Notes

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