Alternative Teeth Care

Alternative Teeth Care: Alternative Toothpaste, Toothbrushes and Floss

I’ve been pondering for quite some time what we used to clean our teeth with before the invention of toothpaste in a tube, plastic bristle brushes and waxed dental floss. I’ve never liked the tubes the toothpaste come in. They are hard to empty completely and they are impossible to recycle. I also don’t like using plastic brushes because they are use oil to produce and also because they are expensive and wear out so fast. I’m sure the toothbrush manufacturers have made toothbrushes so that they wear out quickly. Without doing the research I am certain that I will discover that manufacturers of toothbrushes maximize sales and profits by engineering the materials so they break down quickly. This kind of manufacturing I see as very irresponsible and we as consumers should not put up with it! We should definitely boycott any product that has planned obsolescence built into it.

I had thought to ask the elderly Ibicencan people here (in Ibiza Spain) what they use to clean their teeth with because then I would discover directly what locally available materials work, without having to reinvent the wheel. I asked one woman and she told me that they used sage leaves. I have tried the sage leaves and they work quite well, leaving your mouth tasting good and your teeth very clean. There are many cactus here with long thorns and breaking one of these off works well to clean between the teeth. Also the long pine needles work well. One of our visitors recently came from Malaysia and so I asked him what they used there. He told me charcoal. This I hadn’t heard before so I asked him to show me how to make it and use it. The photo’s are below.

When I first started using the charcoal, then the old fears came leaping to the surface. What if this new material I’m using now isn’t as good as the old, and then my teeth will rot? I realized I was doubting my own decision, going against the ‘authority’, in this case the American Dental Association and all I had learned about taking care of my teeth while I grew up. This is a common feeling when you first start to question the system, there will appear self-doubt and fear that you might not be doing the best thing. The money-makers have done a good job over the years selling their products with all their advertisements, so that it is normal that all that they told us we believe is the truth. There are many things to consider using commercial toothpaste and toothbrushes:

Fluoride is in nearly all US water supply and in all toothpastes and it’s safety is questionable.

Most toothpastes are full of sugar and chemicals that aren’t good for you.

Natural materials clean just as good as the artificial ones.

How much environmental damage is caused by their factory output?

How much oil does it takes to produce these items?

Why aren’t these items made to be recycled? Hint: to make repeat customers and more money…

What happens in the landfill with all this plastic, tubes and strings being thrown away?

Thrown away toothbrushes are found by 1,000’s in ocean.

“Someone who lives to be 80 years old and who replaces their toothbrushes four times a year, as recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA), will go through more than 300 toothbrushes in their lifetime. That’s a large number of brushes and bristles being manufactured and thrown out. In fact, some 50 million pounds of worn out toothbrushes are tossed into landfills annually. And, handfuls of toothbrushes have been recovered from water samples taken from the floating garbage dump the size of Africa in the Pacific Ocean.” – more information on Pacific Garbage Patch here.

Plague of Plastic Chokes the Seas: A Day at the Beach with the Kids

These days I use hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, it works very well and is very cheap. Also the box is cardboard and can be recycled as well the bottle the hydrogen peroxide comes in.

How to Use Charcoal and a Stick to Clean your Teeth

charcoal in bowl The Raw Material – Charcoal pieces left over from burning wood in a firepit.








toothpaste materials Toothpaste making materials: Grinder Charcoal, Eucalyptus branches, herbs.






herbs for toothpasteHerbs good for toothpaste (left to right): Eucalyptus, Mint, Sage. Others good for flavoring (not pictured) are: anise, caraway, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg & thyme.








grinding toothpasteEmmanuel is grinding charcoal with the fresh herb to make a flavored toothpaste.








charcoal toothpasteEmmanuel is shown with the charcoal toothpaste on his teeth. Don’t worry it all washes off easily. You may know that charcoal is used to clean water and is in many filtration systems, and also absorbs odors, so it is a good material for cleaning your teeth.







brushing teeth with charcoalEmmanuel shows you had to do it with a eucalyptus stick and herbal charcoal toothpaste, as his family does in Malaysia.








sage to clean teethLaura is using a single sage leaf to clean her teeth. The Ibicenan people on Ibiza use this method. It works very good. I find it takes around 3 or 4 leaves to do a good cleaning and it can be somewhat difficult to reach the back teeth. But with practice it feels more natural.











tangela antes This is a picture of Tangela’s teeth before using the charcoal toothpaste.





tangela despues
This is a picture of Tangela’s teeth after using the charcoal toothpaste. No touch-ups made – I promise!





ground charcoalThe charcoal when completely dried can be ground into a fine powder.








charcoal powder for teeth This is the charcoal powder.








cleaned charcoal After the first grinding, the charcoal powder should be sieved to remove the larger pieces.








Sierra Exif JPEGThis is the finished charcoal. Store it in a container to keep it dry. To use put some on your toothbrush of choice, then a little water and you’re ready to go.








Alternative Toothpastes

1. Charcoal

Use pieces of ‘charcoal’ left over from a fire. When it is very dry, then grind and sift to remove big pieces. Save the powder in a container and add water to a little powder to brush your teeth. Charcoal is a great teeth whitener, even it is black! Cost: Probably you can make a supply for a family of 4 for a year for a few dollars…

2. Eggplant

Slowly roast the eggplant in a low oven until it gets black and crispy. When blackened remove from oven and let cool. When cool, grind the eggplant into a fine powder, sieve and store in an airtight container. Mix a little with water in a separate container when ready to use to brush your teeth.

3. Sage Leaf (Note: You should look for something locally available and in abundant supply. In general you don’t need to spend money importing herbal remedies that aren’t locally available. Instead, trust that there is an equivalent herb in your own area that is the best for you.) Just pick fresh leaves when you are going to use them, and use as many as necessary to thoroughly clean your teeth. Just rub the fresh leaves all over the teeth, like you see Laura doing in the picture above. It’s a great breath freshener.

4. Baking soda / Hydrogen Peroxide

Using your toothbrush of choice, put a few drops of hydrogen peroxide on the toothbrush then dip it into the baking soda. Then brush your teeth with that mixture. Also remember to brush your tongue at the last and rinse well. This is my mainstay for teeth health and it also helps whiten the teeth.

5. Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic technique that is very effective for keeping the gums healthy, preventing tooth decay and for whitening teeth. It is done simply by taking one tablespoon of oil and swishing between the teeth (pulling it though), for 10 minutes and then spitting out the oil. The oil will be watery and milky white at the end of the 10 minutes. This is probably the simplest most effective thing to protect the teeth! For more information see the Wikipedia link on Oil Pulling.

Alternative Toothbrushes / Natural Toothbrushes

1. Use your finger

2. For thousands of years much of the developing world has been preventing cavities and gum decay by using chewing sticks from the root, stem, or twig of local trees and shrubs. To use these sticks, chew on the end of it, to fray it and make it into a brush. It can be used more than one time… People in Africa, India and other nearby countries have made natural toothbrushes from frayed twigs referred to as “Chew Sticks”, “Neem Sticks” or “Neem Toothbrushes”. These sticks are cut from the licorice bush or the Neem tree. In Namibia they use one referred to as: “muthala”. Another name for this stick is ‘Miswaak‘ which is taken from various trees and roots. In Arabia and Asia it is taken from the Arak tree. the scientific name is ‘Salvadora Persica”. Iin africa, miswaak is cut from lime and orange trees and in American some are cut from the senna tree. I am certain that if you do research in your own geographic area, you are certain to find something that will work right where you live — just be sure it’s non-toxic before you try it!. If people would write me and let me know what they have found to use in their area, then I can make a chart on this page by region. How to make a neem toothbrush.

3. Use a piece of cloth

4. Use a ‘hairy’ non-toxic leaf

Alternative Dental Floss / Natural Dental Floss

1. Cactus thorn (be careful with these, some have toxins in the tips…)

2. Pine needles

3. Toothpicks, easily made by splintering a piece of wood.

4. Use a multiple ply cotton or silk thread dipped in non-toxic wax, bee’s wax or vegan wax.

Cleaning your own Teeth (removing tartar and stains)

1. In place of a dental pick you can use tweezers, dental tools (can be purchased online) or a finger nail file. Any small object that is easy to maneuver with a sharp edge will work to scrape off the hardened material on your teeth. Note you are NOT filing your teeth, only you are using the instrument as a pick to scrape any hardened material! Just be careful that you don’t use something that will take off the enamel on your teeth and you don’t stick yourself with a sharp instrument. With practice this is not hard to do. I use a mirror and sit in bright sunlight so that I can see well what I’m doing.

In summary, I think it’s very important that you don’t just take my word for what I say, instead you should look around and ask questions of elders, native people or colleagues to find out possibilities. Also do some experimenting to see what works the best for you. When you find something that works well, then you should share that information ‘freely’ with others.

We would appreciate feedback on this article, have you used some of the techniques mentioned? Do you have other ways you’ve found to clean your teeth?

Posted in Changing Our Habits, Sustainability