Where Do Toothpicks Come From?

toothpicks-come Credit: Eduardo Mazza/CC-BY-2.0

Toothpicks, which are instruments made for removing bits of food that are lodged between teeth, are usually from wood. American wooden toothpicks, in particular, are cut from birch wood. However, there are other materials used to make these small and thin pointed sticks; they include plastic, metal, and bamboo.

In his book, "The Toothpick," Henry Petroski, a professor of civil engineering, credits Charles Forster with successfully kicking off the American toothpick industry. In the 19th century, the Boston resident hired Harvard students to demand toothpicks after meals in the city's restaurants. Petroski notes, however, that people around the world had been using toothpicks long before Forster's revolution.