Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Living Chemical Free, Part 5: Alternative Ways of Cleaning Teeth

Living Chemical Free is BACK!

Go "no poo" with part 1.

Discover the many uses of baking soda in part 2.

Part 3 gives you tips on how to avoid deodorant altogether.

Part 4 has instructions on how to make laundry soap with natural ingredients.

Imagine you wake up in the morning, rub the sleep out of your eyes, and instead of grabbing one of these
you walk out the back door and break a stick off of one of these

Freaky weird, right? Not for most of the world! According to a 2000 article from the American Chemical Society:

Chewing sticks, pencil-sized sticks made from the root or stem of local trees and shrubs, are chewed on the end until they become frayed into a brush. People then clean their teeth with these frayed sticks - simultaneously removing plaque and massaging their gums.
"While tooth-brushing with toothpaste is arguably the most common method of oral hygiene in developed nations, a large portion of the world's population does not use toothbrushes," says Christine Wu, Ph.D., an associate professor of periodontics in the College of Dentistry at UIC and a co-author of the study. In many countries, including India, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and others in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, chewing sticks are important tools for oral healthcare.

Hmmm. The Middle East, Asia and Africa? That is the bulk of the world's population, right there. Billions of people, over thousands of years, and they generally all have their teeth? There must be something to this!

I wanted to try it out, so I bought a pack of 10 sticks, known as Miswaks. For those of you who don't want to click the link, a Miswak is a teeth cleaning twig from Muslim countries, and its virtues are extolled by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad himself. I personally don't place religious significance on it, but I found it interesting that Islam refers to oral hygiene practices.

This was the packaging my sticks came in, a few days after my eBay order.

The sticks are surprisingly soft and supple. They don't feel like they are made of wood at all! The bark is smooth, and easy to cut away. 

In order to use a Miswak, you must cut a small amount of bark away from the tip of the stick, and then chew on the end to fray the wood into "bristles." 

I made the mistake of trying this out for the first time in front of the children; the taste is STRONG. It has a distinct antiseptic flavour that is nowhere near the taste of your regular foaming mint toothpaste! My reactions to the taste put them off for several weeks before they would even attempt to try it.

I got used to the taste, and now, it doesn't seem all that strong at all! 

Once the stick is frayed and ready for use, just scrub your teeth with it. Maybe put a splash of water on the end, but that's all that is needed. Easy! They also last forever; all you need to do to freshen up the end is cut it off and fray some new wood for bristles. It's sort of like sharpening a pencil, so the stick will last until you can't hold it anymore!

Why bother buying teeth cleaning sticks on eBay, though? I mean, toothbrushes are cheap and plentiful, and toothpaste has a pleasing mint taste. 

Well, toothpaste is often too abrasive, for a start. There is also the fluoride issue, which I don't really have enough knowledge to comment on, but many people wish to avoid that chemical as much as possible. (more power to 'em!)

Have a peek at the list of ingredients in your toothpaste. Kind of a long list, huh? Several unpronounceable ingredients? Some of them are likely to be toxic

If a stick from a tree works just as well (if not better) than a toothbrush (made out of petroleum-based plastics) and toothpaste (full of nasty chemicals), then why not give it a go? It won't hurt you and may be a perfect addition to your chemical-free lifestyle.


Camille said...

I'm so excited to try this, I love these series of posts. I already do the "no-poo" method for me and my girls and I just got the soap nuts last night so looking forward to trying those out.

Thanks for taking the time to post this.

Camille (came over from Misty's blog)

Raisin4Cookies said...

Excellent! I'm happy to help. I hope you enjoy the experiment. :)

funkyhan said...

Yep! Im going to try it :)

Raisin4Cookies said...

I'll even give you one, if you want. :)