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Toothpick History

Humans have been picking their teeth for as long as they've been eating, according to Arden G. Christen, a professor emeritus of oral biology at Indiana University's dentistry school.

"As far as can be documented, the oldest demonstrable human habit is picking one's teeth," said Christen, who published an article on the history of toothpicks.

Toothpick grooves have been found in the teeth of prehistoric humans indicating they used toothpicks fashioned from bird claws, bones, ivory, shells, quills or walrus whiskers, Christen said.

Up until the 18th century, it was considered a compliment to the cook to pick your teeth, he said. The French even served toothpicks with dessert, fully expecting the wood skewers to be used after dinner.

There are several references in toothpicks from ancient historical times. Shakespeare mentions a toothpick in Act II, scene I of "Much Ado About Nothing". A toothpick is mentioned in Satyricon by Petronius Arbiter (60 AD).

The Union Oyster House (the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the U.S.) has been open to diners since 1826 - the same year that the toothpick was first used in the United States at this same location. An enterprising Charles Forster of Maine first imported the picks from South America. To promote his new business, he hired Harvard boys to dine at the Union Oyster House and ask for toothpicks.

By 1860, he had to devise machines to keep up with the growing demand. A complete toothpick machine system would include a veneer lathe, six cutting machines, one drying oven, and one straightening and box filling machine. This system would require about 15 horsepower and the hourly output would be about 1,440,000 toothpicks.

Today, hundreds of billions of toothpicks are used every year around the world (China alone, where more than 65 percent of adults use toothpicks after each meal, consumes about 200 billion toothpicks a year). Now you can enjoy fat free, sugar free, all natural Taste-T-Picks flavored toothpicks anywhere, anytime. The convenient pocket pack fits nicely in any purse or pocket allowing you to satisfy your cravings or hygene needs everyday.


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