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    How to Brush Your Teeth Without a Toothbrush

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    How to Brush Your Teeth Without a Toothbrush

    A missed flight. A delayed road trip. A family emergency. A weather-related crisis. A simple change in plans. We've all been unexpectedly in situations when we've had to be without our regular hygiene supplies. Yet, going without brushing your teeth can affect the health of your teeth and gums, not to mention your breath.

    What are some ways to keep your teeth clean when you don't have access to a toothbrush or toothpaste? It may surprise you that there are quite a few options to consider.

    Use your finger

    If you are without your toothbrush, you can use your index finger as a makeshift brush. Your finger has a slightly rough surface that can help clean the surface of your teeth. Begin with clean hands. Then, move your wet index finger around and behind each tooth in gentle circular motions. The dentist in this video describes finger brushing with toothpaste as “the next best thing” to using a toothbrush.

    Try a paper towel

    Another option is to use a paper towel or washcloth to clean your teeth. The rough surface of these cloths will help clear away food and germs that can cause plaque. Wash your hands first. Then, wrap the edge of a damp paper towel or washcloth around your index finger.

    Use a circular motion to focus on each tooth. You can also use the cloth to “brush” your tongue, removing bacteria that can cause bad breath. Check out this video for a quick explanation.

    Rinse with water

    When you rinse your mouth with water after eating, you take an important step in preventing or at least reducing bacterial growth. Rinse vigorously and repeat the process two or three times for best results.

    Apply baking soda

    Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda) is a top ingredient in many brands of toothpaste, and for good reason. The compound has mild abrasive properties that can help clean your teeth. Baking soda also has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties to help fight bacterial growth. Keep in mind that this option is not for long-term use, as baking soda does not contain fluoride.

    Swish with mouthwash

    If you have access to mouthwash but not your toothbrush, you use it as a temporary alternative. Swish a capful of mouthwash around in your mouth for 30 to 60 seconds to clean your teeth and freshen your breath.

    Use dental floss

    Strong and portable, dental floss is a handy item to have with you when you go camping or traveling. It also can serve as a substitute for brushing when you run out of other supplies. Flossing helps remove food particles and bacteria around your teeth and allows you to reach areas you can't get to with other methods.

    In this video, a dental hygienist demonstrates how to use string floss correctly. And here, she shows how to use floss sticks in the right way.

    Try brushing wipes

    These textured little cloths are easy to pack in your car or backpack. Individually wrapped wipes can help remove food particles and build-up on teeth surfaces. No water is necessary, and flavored wipes (like these) can help freshen your breath.

    Chew gum

    Chewing sugar-free gum helps loosen food particles, neutralize the acids released by bacteria found in plaque, and freshen your breath when you are without your toothpaste and toothbrush. According to the American Dental Association, chewing gum also increases the saliva in your mouth, which helps reduce plaque formation.

    Eat fibrous vegetables and fruits

    Biting into a stalk of celery or a crisp apple or carrot on celery can help remove food particles and plaque from the surfaces of your teeth. Other benefits include:

    • The vitamin C is beneficial for gum health.
    • The vitamin A in carrots strengthens tooth enamel.
    • Eating celery increases saliva production, which helps neutralize acids that can cause plaque.

    Eat cheese after a meal

    Research shows that nibbling on some cheese after eating a meal can have benefits for your teeth and gums. Cheese can balance the pH level in your mouth, thereby reducing acid levels. Cheese also contains phosphate and calcium, which help strengthen teeth. Another bonus is that eating cheese increases helpful salvia production.

    Rinse with hydrogen peroxide

    Hydrogen peroxide can serve as an alternative to mouthwash for adults. However, according to dental experts, you need to follow some guidelines carefully.

    • To avoid irritation, use a 3 percent concentration of hydrogen peroxide.
    • Mix one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water.
    • Swish the solution around the mouth.
    • Tilt your head back and gargle with the solution for 30 seconds.
    • Spit the solution out, taking care not to swallow any.

    Use a tongue scraper

    Tongue scrapers are strips of plastic or metal that you use to help remove bacteria and debris from the tongue surface. Ideally, you would use this device after brushing, but if a toothbrush is not available, cleaning your tongue with this device is better than nothing, according to experts. It also can be used in conjunction with some of the other alternative methods listed here.

    Here's more on tongue scrapers and how to use them.

    Eat plain yogurt

    The lactic acid and probiotics found in plain Greek yogurt may contribute to periodontal health. This article in ScienceDirect explains the research involved in the benefits of yogurt for teeth and gums.

    Try oil-pulling

    Oil-pulling is an ancient method for oral hygiene that is getting some attention from modern alternative health practitioners. Oil-pulling can help remove toxins from your mouth. The procedure involves swishing a tablespoon of oil around your mouth and then spitting it out. Sesame and coconut oils are often the choice for this method, but olive or sunflower oil can work as well.

    Drink green and black teas

    Green and black teas contain polyphenols that can help prevent bacteria growth and harmful acids in the mouth. According to an article published by the National Library of Medicine, green tea interferes with the body's inflammatory response to periodontal bacteria, helping to ward off periodontal disease.

    What you should avoid when you can't brush

    Now that we've shared ways you can clean your teeth when you don't have your toothbrush and toothpaste, let’s consider you should avoid consuming until you can get back into your dental hygiene routine.

    • Sticky candies and sweets
    • Starchy foods that can get trapped between your teeth
    • Carbonated soft drinks
    • Substances that dry out your mouth

    For more on overall oral hygiene, here are a few resources.

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