Natural toothbrush alternatives (part 1)
Traditionally used "chewing sticks" have medicinally active properties
There seem to be three trees traditionally used as "toothbrush trees" cherished in the orient and Middle East, the Neem, Peelu and gum arabic tree respectively, which people have used to good effect even before modern toothbrushes were invented. In addition to offering an ecological way of cleaning your teeth, they also are ideal as a brush replacement when travelling etc.
Neem tree (Azadirachta indica)
People in India have chewed slender branches of the neem tree for thousands of years to clean their teeth and to this day, neem twigs continue to be sold for this use.
Products and derivatives of the Neem tree, the "tree of a thousand uses" have been used for medicinal (incl. in Ayurveda), cosmetic, agricultural and other purposes due to its antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, pest-control, sedative and more effects. Neem extracts can also be found in Ayurvedic and other toothpastes.
Peelu, the toothbrush tree (Salvadora persica)
(aka Arak tree,
and Miswak/siwak or sewak when referring to the teeth-cleaning chewing stick or twig)
Another effective natural toothbrush prized since many centuries, the use of Salvadora persica twigs for oral hygiene purposes has even been recommended by the World Health Organization.
Scientific research points to the Peelu tree or miswak boasting a number of medicinal properties such as being antiseptic, astringent, detergent and containing enzyme inhibitors.
Analyses have shown Salvadora persica to contain, among other ingredients, much fluoride and silica as well as sulphur, vitamin C and flavonoids.
There are several toothpastes or powders on offer which contain salvadora persica/miswak extracts such as Peelu tooth powder and toothpaste, Sarakan toothpaste (sold only in the UK) and likely others.
Gum arabic tree (Acacia nilotica)
aka Sant tree, Al-sant, babul, prickly acacia and Egyptian thorn, while South Africans refer to it as scented thorn or lekkerruikpeul and Australians as thorn mimosa
Thin twigs of Acacia nilotica have been used as a toothbrush in large parts of the Indian sub-continent.
Continue to part 2 (including usage instructions)
1 The miswak (chewing stick) and oral health. Studies on oral hygiene practices of urban Saudi Arabians, An in vitro antimicrobial comparison of miswak extract with commercially available non-alcohol mouthrinses, Comparative effect of chewing sticks and toothbrushing on plaque removal and gingival health as well as The Effect of Salvadora Persica Extract (Miswak) and Chlorahexidine Gluconate on Human Dentin: A SEM Study