Monday, February 1, 2010

Clean Your Teeth for Free

If you give it a little thought, you will realize that plastic toothbrushes and industrial toothpaste are not a good solution to the universal problem of mouth care. According to wikipedia:
"Despite being comparatively a small source of pollution, tooth brushes still make up for 50 million pounds of plastics per year for the USA alone that end up in landfills."
And that doesn't include all the empty tubes of toothpaste!

In the past, to avoid buying and using expensive and unhealthy commercial toothpaste, I brushed with a mixture of baking soda, ground cloves and star anise. It was an improvement, but did not solve the toothbrush problem.

I recently decided to find the solution and it was easy. Once again, Mother Nature has provided us all along with the perfect tool for the job, a twig.
Many plants and trees all over the world have antibacterial, mouth cleansing properties that make them ideal toothbrushes.
The following is a partial list of such trees in the U.S.
Dogwoods, black birch, black gum, sweet gum, sassafras, spice bush, and horsetail (not a tree).

I decided to try sassafras first because it grows all over my backyard.
You have to experiment to see which part of a branch has best brush characteristics. Generally a branch is more flexible as it gets thinner, and more stiff as it gets thicker.
In the photograph, the twig on the right is a good brush, while the one on the left (split in half) is too hard and woody.
To turn the twig into a brush you just remove the bark a little on one end and gently chew, scrape, and work that end with your teeth until the fibers separate into a brush.
Using the twig brush is different than a regular toothbrush. you have to pay more attention to what you are doing, and you clean each tooth one at a time. I found that the twig brush has more friction against the tooth, and is more effective at actually cleaning.
Each day you can trim the twig back and have a fresh brush. Here is a free, disposable toothbrush that does not harm the planet.

What about floss? By splitting a larger twig into slender slivers, you can make customized toothpicks. In the photograph, to the right of the large twig is a piece i split off into a "brushpick". To the right of it is a finer sliver, a "flosspick".

When I was looking for a sassafras tree to make brushes out of, I found a little one that was being strangled by some kind of vine. In the process of untangling the sassafras tree, at the last moment i accidentally broke off a small branch, and that is the one I used for my brushes. I believe that there are more than enough twigs out there for everyone, but we should be respectful and grateful to our tree friends who are giving us these fine gifts.

Old plastic toothbrushes can be used for various cleaning jobs. I use mine to scrub the mortar and pestle.

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