While universally considered an indispensable item for preventing decay and subsequent toothache, at times the toothpick also reflected an individual’s social status. Some of the most elaborate were made of gold decorated with enamel, pearls and precious stones. As a fashionable possession, the showy toothpick would have been readily displayed to suggest one had just enjoyed a sumptuous meal. However, its use at 1800s dinner parties was discouraged, as indicated by several quotes on proper toothpick etiquette: “Do not pick your teeth much at table, as, however satisfactory a practice to yourself, to witness it is not a pleasant thing” and “In company your teeth to pick, Would make refined beholders sick.”
Bennion, E 1986 Antique Dental Instruments, London: Sotheby’s Publ.; Foley, GPH 1972 Foley’s Footnotes: A Treasury of Dentistry, Wallingford, PA: Washington Square East Publ; Petroski, H 2007 The Toothpick: Technology and Culture, New York, NY: Random House.
Donor: Dr. William V. Stenberg (’82)