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What Is a Natural Toothbrush?

By Carmen Santos Monteiro
Updated Feb 20, 2024
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A natural toothbrush is an oral hygiene tool in which the bristles, and usually also the handle, are made from materials found in nature. Many of humans’ earliest toothbrushes fit this description more or less by necessity; this includes the bark and twigs used by many pre-modern cultures and still used in certain parts of the world today. Sometimes, animal spines or rough hairs are paired with wooden handles to create toothbrushes that look more like standard versions, but don’t contain anything plastic or synthetic. Combination brushes are another possibility. These are usually made out of one part that’s all natural, like a wooden handle, with another part that’s synthetic, for instance nylon bristles. People who choose natural options for their toothbrushes often look for all natural toothpastes, too, which don’t usually contain any chemicals or lab-derived ingredients.

Early Toothbrush Prototypes

Historically, people from many cultures around the world used twigs from trees and bushes to clean their teeth. Some of this was by necessity, as there weren’t many options in pre-industrial times. Europeans until the late 1800s often used twigs or sticks to clean their teeth, for instance.

Cleaning with twigs sometimes also had religious or cultural significance. In the Middle East, the Salvadora persica tree, also called the arak or peelu tree, or even the "toothbrush tree," is still sometimes used for this purpose still today. According to Islamic tradition, the use of the miswak, which is the twig from this tree, is recommended before religious observances, before sleeping, and at many other times.

Choosing a Tree Type

Not all trees or twigs will work well as toothbrushes. The ideal stick has a dense and firm fiber that won’t splinter easily. A high nutrient content is helpful, as are antibacterial properties. One of the best choices is often the arak tree. The Arak has unique moist, biodegradable twigs that are stretched easily, naturally producing vitamin C, fluorine, potassium, calcium oxides and other beneficial minerals that sustain tooth enamel.

Care and Upkeep

Natural toothbrushes can be used for approximately six weeks. The twig’s form and moisture massages both the teeth and gums, and can help whiten teeth naturally, removing discolorations that build over time.

Toothbrushes made from long twig are pretty easy to use and understand. Once a twig has been identified, it usually needs to be cleaned and the bristles separated by slightly biting the end until softened. The outer bark should be peeled back to expose the top layer of bristles, each layer of which should be removed after use. A fresh new layer of bristles is exposed each day. If this type of toothbrush dries out, it can be placed in water for approximately 10 minutes before using in order to refresh it.

Animal-Derived Bristles

Less commonly, perhaps, a natural toothbrush also can refer to brushes that use boar bristles, badger hair or other animal bristles to clean the teeth. The first mass-produced toothbrushes were made with such natural bristles, although many improvements in quality have been made since then. Many users believe that natural bristles are more effective and healthier for the body. The plastics in most regular toothbrushes also rarely are recycled, and as such, natural versions made of wood and animal bristles might be considered to be more environmentally friendly since they’re made from renewable materials.

Combination Brushes

It’s also common to find brushes that are partially

Paste Pairings

Many people who choose natural toothbrushes also choose all natural toothpastes, which are usually products that are made from a combination of plant extracts and natural earth elements. Twigs are one exception; most of these don't actually require toothpaste at all.

Most commercial toothpaste options are made with a number of chemicals and sometimes drugs intended to improve oral hygiene and tooth and gum health. Natural varieties typically taste a lot different, and may be more expensive depending on location. Most of the time, though, they are designed to achieve the same benefits.

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Discussion Comments
By ZipLine — On Jul 23, 2014

@burcinc-- But are the bristles natural as well? Some toothbrushes have natural handles, but the bristles are made from nylon. I feel like that's tricking the consumer. They label these toothbrushes as natural, when only the handle is natural.

I personally prefer a toothbrush that's natural overall. Moreover, the bristles are even more important than the handle because it's going into my mouth. So it needs to be of natural materials and without chemicals.

By burcinc — On Jul 22, 2014

I use a natural toothbrush with a bamboo handle. I decided to make the shift after switching to ecological, environmentally safe products. I felt that my toothbrush should be natural as well.

By ysmina — On Jul 22, 2014

Miswak is the original toothbrush. Most people find the idea of cleaning teeth with twigs funny. But when the end of the miswak twig is bitten, it reveals natural bristles. These bristles look just like toothbrush bristles and I think this is how the modern toothbrush was made in the first place. But natural miswak toothbrush is better because there are no synthetic materials. Moreover, the miswak tree naturally has antiseptic properties so in addition to cleaning teeth and freshening the mouth, it prevents cavities.

There are now miswak flavored toothpastes on the market. But if one can get a hold of real miswak twigs, those are the best.

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