I usually brush my teeth with a regular(non-electronic) toothbrush and floss with regular floss, but sometimes I don't have a access to a toothbrush or floss. Because of this I either have to go without brushing and flossing. I don't want to use the following approaches:

  • Use a washcloth or other clothe: This is a awesome method, but it is tricky to clean the tongue and between the teeth effectively.
  • Rinse with mouthwash or water: This is a bad health practice as the mouthwash can't scrub off plaque buildup and clean between the teeth or the tongue. All it does is clean mouth of some bacteria and food particles.
  • Scraping the plaque off the teeth: This doesn't work as my teeth usually don't have visible tartar, unless I haven't brushed for days. Also, this can damage the teeth.

But in the absence of both toothbrushes and floss(which I don't have a solution for), these methods do nothing to make my mouth feel truly fresh and clean, and clean between my teeth. Because of the health scares associated with lack of brushing and flossing (Dental Caries, Cardiovascular Disease, etc) I really need a solution. What can I use? I may have to go without days of brushing and I need something that is healthy and attainable. I need something that is:

  • Cheap: Ideally it cost $0. I can't go running out to buy something, and some other product suggestion is not going to help me.
  • Anything that doesn't contain alcohol, pork or other animal by products, or chemicals.
  • Cleans both my teeth and between my teeth.
  • Something I can possibly reuse. This isn't necessary, but it is highly advised.
  • Something natural. I am very picky about this as oral cancer that could result from chemical exposure.
  • Anything sharp I don't want in my mouth(safety pins, etc). And suggesting brushes, unless a realistic alternative is unavailable is not welcome.

Examples of suggestions I don't want.

  • Floss/Floss Picks
  • Brushing Wipes
  • Wine Wipes
  • Rinse with water
  • Disposable Toothbrushes
  • Using my finger or scraping with a fingernail
  • Sticking a scrub brush in my mouth

3 Answers 3


One option for flossing is to use your hair. If you can pull out a piece of your hair (this shouldn't be too hard) you can use it to floss between your teeth. This works best with thicker longer hair.

For brushing your teeth you can use a paintbrush (most types should work). You can just apply toothpaste and use it as a regular toothbrush.

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Detail Brush

Pros: If it has hard bristles, detail brushes can be used to clean certain parts of your teeth and they can also be used as floss if you have teeth gaps that are a bit wider.

Cons: Harder to get toothpaste on, can take longer if you are cleaning all of your teeth

Flat/Angular Flat

Pros: Easy to put toothpaste on, hard bristle ones can clean well, angular flats can easily reach and clean molars.

Cons: Soft bristle ones are very flimsy and do not clean well.

Fan Brush

Do not use these, too flimsy and they do not clean well.

Bright Brushes

Pros: IMO the best kind to use, clean well. In painting they are meant for short strokes, and that also works while brushing your teeth. Easy to apply toothpaste to.

Cons: Soft bristle ones do not clean as well as hard bristle one, also a bit trickier to reach the molars.

Image credit: Image from Types of brushes-article from http://www.art-is-fun.com/


The solutions for this problem I have found:

Diclaimer: The following methods do little to clean between the teeth.

From eHow:

  • Twigs: Can be used only once, but is okay to be used if cleaned for up to a week or a few days.

Licorice, neem, senna, arak, birch, persimmon, eucalyptus and elm are woody plants a person can use as a toothbrush.

To use a twig as a toothbrush, chew on the end for a while, until it gets bristly with fibers. This chewing helps clean between your teeth. You also can use the fibers to clean your gum line and tooth surfaces in a gentle, circular motion, like with a commercial toothbrush. The twigs should be used only once, then composted.

But there is a thing called a Miswak:

You do have to use a peeler (or knife if you’re handy that way) to scrape off about 1/2 inch of the bark away. Then you chew on it until the fibers separate, and you can get right to work. At first some of the outer fibers will break off in your mouth – but then you’re pretty much all set.

This article uses a piece of wood from something called a Peelu Tree, but other branches can be used. Know what is posoinous before you put it into your mouth. But most fruit tree woods are safe and have favourable taste. If you are careful no splinters will reuslt and these can make your feel fresh.

  • Charcoal: Possibly reusable, but depends on the size of the charcoal and how messy you got it

Charcoal, a tooth cleaner used in Malaysia, can be taken from a fire pit after the fire has gone out, ground in a mortar and pestle with some sage, mint, cinnamon or eucalyptus, and rubbed on the teeth. It won’t stain your teeth; it rinses off easily.

This is a nice method, but you don't have to ground it as then it is more of a toothpaste. Rinsing your mouth after use is suggested.

  • Sage Leaves: Not reusable

In the Ibicencan tradition, sage is rubbed thoroughly on the surfaces of the teeth for a tooth-scrubbing and refreshing experience. Sage is a good scrubber; it also is delicious and is a mild antiseptic, too. It can help heal ulcers in the mouth.

Other leaves, such as Berry leaves work as well. Some herb leaves work, but most mint leaves are to small and fragile. Crushing these mint leaves and rubbing the solution against teeth works a little. You may be able to use smaller leaves, but be careful.

  • Fibrous Foods: Not reusable, unless you refrigerate pieces of the fibrous food

Use fibrous foods that require lots of chewing, such as apples, celery or carrots, to massage gum lines and tooth surfaces. To be effective, these must be used after every time you eat--even if it’s just a mid-afternoon snack.

A lot of people use fibrous dog biscuits to clean their dogs teeth instead of biscuits. Mouthwash should be used after this to remove traces of sugar and other destructive factors. These need to be used frequently otherwise the tartar builds up and can't be removed using this method. Fibrous food is quite good for you, as it helps with peristalsis and is essential for weight loss.

Find a clean paper towel and wrap it around your index finger. Try to find the thickest type of paper towel you can, ideally something that will hold up to a little friction.

Wet the towel with clean water and put a small amount of toothpaste on it. Start with just a dab so that your teeth aren’t completely covered in toothpaste, and you can see what you’re doing. You can add more toothpaste as you work.

Paper towels aren't the best method, and are similar to washclothes, but if you use the flossing alternatives noted below you should be OK.

Chew sugar free gum twenty minutes after you eat to keep your mouth fresh – it also helps prevent tooth decay! Look for gum recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA); there will be an ADA label on the gum package.

Sugar free gum can clean between gums to a certain degree. And this is a sustainable method.

Cleaning between the teeth:

  • Cactus or Pine Needle(from the eHow article)

Cactus or pine needles are good for scraping plaque from in between your teeth. Similar to a toothpick, these are not a flossing substitute, but these scrapers are a good complement to an alternative toothbrush. Other toothpicks used throughout history include porcupine quills and shards of bone.

  • Using common thread is good for using as alternative cloos. It fits between your teeth and you have a whole spool. It can be stronger than regular floss to, I use quilting thread. Sinews from plants works to, but a lot can be to big and short to fit between teeth.

  • Taking mouth wash and swishing it around in your mouth can clean between teeth as well.


One option would be use table salt with fingertips. I have done it and it works. But it should not be done very often. Once in a while if needed. You could follow up with rubbing a slice of lemon on teeth for freshness.

In India, in old days, people used to use thin stick of Neem tree..they would chew it, let it's juice spread over in the mouth and then spit out. However I must mention that this tastes extremely bitter. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azadirachta_indica

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