How Other Cultures Brush Using Natural Resources

For most of those who live in the United States, it is common to brush our teeth twice a day with nylon or electronic toothbrush and a fluoride-based toothpaste. Yet outside the United States, some cultures still use a variety of ancient methods to care for their teeth. This is especially true in areas of the world populated by indigenous cultures and those nations developing. Let’s look into other forms of teeth cleaning from other parts of the world.

In most indigenous cultures, diets are often based less on processed foods and large amounts of sugar, but instead are based more on the local offerings that are grown on family farms. Therefore, their teeth are not exposed to many negative influences. So how do they have clean teeth without our modern tools and toothpastes?

In Arab Bedouin tribes, they use twigs gathered from the arak tree, which is known to have antiseptic properties. They take the twig and soften one end, then brush it over the surfaces of their teeth. The result is clean teeth and a healthy smile. There is also the benefit of fresher breath as harmful bacterium is removed from the various areas within the mouth. Other Muslim or African cultures have something similar, which is called the miswak. These sticks have been known to have a high concentration of fluoride, which is recognized for its cavity-fighting properties.


Miswak Stick

A miswak stick is typically cut from the branches of the arak as well. The bristles are created by chewing off a section of bark from one end of the stick. Then, the bristles are wetted down with water, and then used to brush teeth in a traditional manner. If you were choosing to follow the more traditional method, then you would use rose water as lubrication. The result is that the teeth are cleaned, and you may have a slightly spicy taste in your mouth. Once the bristles start to become frayed, then you can cut off the old bristles and start another set on the same stick. It is important to keep in mind; however, that you need to keep the stick tucked away in a clean environment or you risk the transfer of harmful bacteria. For many of people in the world, brushing teeth with the side of a toothbrush would seem odd, as they use the miswak to brush their teeth with its tip. By brushing up and down to scrub the various surfaces, one can see how the miswak works to clean the teeth. Yet, there is definitely an art to it, because if you press too hard, you can actually scrape or gouge your teeth or cause bleeding.

Natural Toothpastes

Surrounding and resources plays a role in the different types of toothpaste used. In rural areas of India, Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America; for example, people use brick dust, rangoli powder, charcoal, mud, ash, or salt, to aid in the brushing process. So what is rangoli powder? It can be a combination of rice water, gypsum powder, dry pigments or colored sand. The mixture can be used a homemade toothpaste, containing a mild abrasive material. Yet, far back before the days of toothbrushes and traditional toothpaste, individuals used a variety of brushing methods to achieve the same effect of clean teeth. Datuns; for example, are branches of the plant Azadirachta indica or Neem that when tied together create fibrous bristles to use cleaning your teeth and gums, which are still used in some cultures today. This method was meant to take off the buildup of biofilm that grows throughout the day. It’s believed that if biofilm is not removed, it becomes a hard buildup that may take the work of a dentist to remove.

Sugarcane Juice

An interesting method of cleaning the mouth that is very common in some island cultures, defies common sense. By chewing on sugarcane throughout the day requires all your canines, molars, and pretty much all the areas of your mouth to extract the juice. Since most dentists are against the consumption of large amounts of sugar, how does the sugarcane method work? Simply put, the juice from the sugarcane normalizes the acidity that is naturally found within your mouth that can cause oral problems. Most people who choose this method are sugar farmers and workers for or live nearby a field. The important factor of this method is making sure to drink and gargle with plenty of water through the day of expect adverse effects.

Feathers, Quills and Twigs

Other cultures prefer to use bristles, feathers, porcupine quills, and twigs. Hindu priests prefer to use cheery wood as their teeth cleaning method of choice. There are religious groups and cultures in India that use twigs from coconut, cashew, and even mango trees to make sure their teeth are clean daily. However, no matter which method is being used, the same goal seems to be that all these cultures value the benefits of healthy teeth. All these methods were meant to address the cleanliness of the surface of a tooth. Additionally, they also were meant to assist the Ph balance within the mouth to some degree. Finally, brushing their teeth also helped to keep their teeth firmly in the gum sockets, which contributed to their gum health overall. So are any of these methods better than modern general dentistry in terms of creating a clean mouth and healthy gums? The most important part of all these methods is the removal of the harmful bacteria, and other films found on our teeth after a typical day. By removing these harmful bacteria, we can guarantee that our teeth will survive much longer and still be effective into the later years of our lives. 

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