How to keep your teeth clean in the wilderness

Healthy teeth in the wilderness

Dental hygiene more than important, especially in a survival scenario when your toothpaste is empty or lost. Keeping your teeth clean while lost in some forest is crucial because you have no idea when’s the next time you’ll see a dentist and as some of us know, tooth pain is a thing to be avoided.

So, it’s vital for your health to have your teeth under control and prevent cavities and other diseases in your mouth. Being in the wild doesn’t mean a stinky mouth.

There are a couple of us here at Outdoor Revival HQ that have had tooth problems while we’re in the wilderness and away from a dentist, at best it ruins your trip and at worst it incapacitates you and you become a liability for those with you, it’s always best avoided and if you are going to be off the beaten track for a while take an emergency dental repair kit with you.


There is no excuse to wander around without washing your teeth in the woods because there is a way to do it, an old-fashioned way.

There is a tree called a Toothbrush tree, a small, evergreen shrub or tree that grows in hot, dry conditions in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and the Arabian Peninsula. This tree has been used for more than 1000 years and is very effective in keeping the teeth clean and healthy. Its Latin name is Salvadora Persica.


Salvadora persica
Salvadora persica

Native Americans were using trees like Dogwood, Oak, and Maple that contain active compounds that reduce decay, caries and gum diseases.

These medicinal trees have lots of benefits and values such as killing bacteria in your mouth, fighting plaque, teeth whitening, keeping bad breath at bay and massaging the gums.


Dogwood tree
Dogwood tree

How to make the toothbrush?

Grab a stick from one of these trees and trim it or chew the bark off one end of the stick. Chew it until the fibers break apart and it forms bristles. Brush your teeth as if it was a regular modern toothbrush.


The only difference is that this time no toothpaste is needed. When the twig gets old, cut it back and chew further.

Change it whenever you feel like you need a new toothbrush. If it becomes too dry soak it in rose water if possible, if not just get a new twig.




While spending time in the wilderness without proper dental hygiene, be careful not to use the following trees: Mountain Laurel, Rhododendron, Black Locust, Yew, Buckeye and Horse chestnut. Their twigs are poisonous, so be sure not to use them as a toothbrush, nor for cooking or firewood. The last thing you need while being lost in the woods is to get poisoned while brushing your teeth.


Mountain Laurel Photo Credit
Mountain Laurel Photo Credit


Don’t let circumstances keep you away from your dental hygiene. Having a healthy mouth is something you’ll start to appreciate even more after spending some time in the wilderness. Be careful how you choose the medicinal trees and avoid everything that looks suspicious.



In the end, try not to get lost and always double up on your toothbrush and toothpaste. It’s good to know alternative ways for teeth cleaning, but if you can avoid it and use the real thing avoid getting lost.

Stay safe and clean on your next wilderness trip.


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stef-zisovska is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival