Toothbrush Twigs

Toothbrush Twigs

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Using a twig as a toothbrush is a time honoured tradition in many cultures. Examples have been found in Egyptian tombs dating from 3000 years BC, and their use is recommended in writings from the Moslem and Sikh religions. The tree commonly used in Africa to source the right sort of twig is actually known as ‘the toothbrush tree’.

There are many very good reasons why using a twig is actually better for your teeth and oral hygiene than buying a ‘proper’ toothbrush. For a start, it is much better for the environment to use then discard a natural item than something made of plastic.

Then of course it is a lot cheaper, especially if you own the right tree or have free access to one. This is especially helpful if you live a long way from the nearest store.

Each twig lasts several weeks, as you can cut off the end as it becomes worn, and start with a fresh section. Try doing that with your Oral B!

There are many different species of tree which are suitable for use in this way, in particular the neem tree which contains a natural antiseptic. Gum trees, bamboo and many fruit and nut trees are also a good choice. Even better, none of them requires toothpaste to clean teeth, massage gums and freshen breath.

Here in Singapore it is easy to find ready cut twigs, sealed for freshness and sold in a handy plastic carrying tube that looks like an oversized pen. It is called a miswak, and is a popular item in the stores around Arab Street that cater to pilgrims preparing for the Haj.

Having seen a washroom full of ladies using twigs before breaking their Ramadan fast at the Sultan Mosque, I thought I would like to try this out for myself. The twig end needs peeling first, then you chew the end until the fibres separate out into a natural ‘brush’ shape, and scrub away.

For a regular toothbrush user, it is the taste which trips you up – I was hoping it would be something like the liquorice roots I loved to chew as a child, but this one was simply woody with an antiseptic undertone. Also, although I may not have been using it correctly, I found that tiny pieces of the ‘bristles’ kept breaking off and sticking between my teeth.

All in all, it was fascinating to try, but I’m afraid it will not become part of my daily routine.