Miswak Toothbrush: Why You Should Use a Stick to Brush Your Teeth
Long before triple-action, soft-bristle, flexible action toothbrushes lined the oral care aisle of the grocery story, ancient cultures in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East used a deceptively simple tool known as a miswak–a twig from the Arak tree (Salvadora persica)–to brush their teeth.
And while conventional western wisdom would have us believe that this simple tool has been replaced by something better, evidence is mounting that brushing your teeth with a stick has some very compelling benefits.
What makes the miswak toothbrush so special? What kind of benefits can you expect from using a miswak toothbrush? And how is this unique toothbrush actually used?
In this article:
What Is a Miswak Toothbrush?
The simple answer to this question is, of course, “a stick.”
However, the miswak is no ordinary stick. The branches and twigs of the Aark tree contain a startling number of natural substances that promote oral health and hygiene, including the following:
- Vitamin C: promotes immune health
- Silica: gentle abrasive to remove plaque, tartar, and stains
- Tannins: kills bacteria and helps prevent gingivitis
- Mineral Compounds (calcium oxide, calcium fluoride, sodium bicarbonate): fortifies teeth and bones
- Alkaloids (Trimethylamine and Salvadorine): helps fight infections
- Resins: helps prevent cavities by fortifying enamel
- Organic Sulphur: fights gingivitis and improves tooth sensitivity
Islamic cultures have been using the miswak for thousands of years as part of traditional wisdom, but in recent years, it has been gaining more worldwide popularity as a holistic oral care regimen.
Several variations of the miswak are now readily available for purchase in the United States.
[Related article: Get Healthier Teeth and Gums with these 7 Foods for Oral Health]
Benefits of Using a Miswak Toothbrush
In 1986 and 2000, the World Health Organization vouched for the effectiveness and benefits of using a miswak toothbrush. And in 2008, one study showed that miswak users in Sudan had better overall oral health than many toothbrush users!1
With sustained use, miswak users can expect to enjoy some impressive benefits.
- Cavity Prevention. Using a miswak helps increase saliva production (one of nature’s best defenses against tooth decay). The antibacterial and astringent properties of the substances in the miswak also stave off bacterial infections2 that can lead to tooth decay.
- Enamel Protection. The resins in the miswak help coat and fortify the surface of the teeth, defending against damage from acidic foods. Miswak also contains sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride, and calcium oxide, which help preserve and strengthen enamel.
- Tooth Whitening. The fibers of the miswak, which contain the gentle abrasive silica, can help remove stains and whiten teeth over time.
- No Toothpaste Needed! Many people are surprised to find that a miswak stick requires no toothpaste or tooth powder. It’s an all-in-one tooth-cleaning machine.
- Effectively Removes Plaque, Tartar, and Debris. The bristles of the miswak are very effective at quickly removing plaque,3 residue, and foreign particles from the mouth, including stubborn tartar.
- Improves Bad Breath. Reducing the amount of residue and promoting blood flow is important for good breath. Miswak also helps improve the breath through subtle, naturally-occuring essential oils (the twig itself tastes a little like ginger root!).
- Gingivitis, Periodontal Disease, and Gum Disease Prevention. The miswak is as good for the gums as it is for the teeth, promoting blood flow, fighting gingivitis with organic sulphur and tannins, flushing out harmful bacteria, and increasing saliva production.
- Reduced Pain and Inflammation. The miswak contains both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help soothe irritated gums or mouth tissue and cankers.
- Affordable. Each miswak stick can be used about six or seven times (each day you use the miswak, you cut off the used portion). However, even considering the fact that the miswak must be replaced more often than a traditional toothbrush, keep in mind that you no longer need a toothbrush or toothpaste–and that you gain numerous health benefits not found in a common toothbrush!
- Organic and Sustainable. The average person will use more than 160 toothbrushes in the course of a lifetime (which is why almost 5 billion plastic toothbrushes find their way to landfills every year). That’s a lot of plastic and a lot of chemical processes related to manufacturing. Using a stick, in comparison, creates almost zero waste or chemicals.
- Hygienic. You’ll cut the tip off your miswak toothbrush daily, meaning that unlike a toothbrush, bacteria won’t have a chance to accumulate on the bristles!
- Conserves Water. The miswak doesn’t require any water for use. Because running water while teeth brushing is a common wasteful habit, you could be saving several gallons each time you brush.
The sheer number of oral health benefits found in this one tiny stick is impressive. And for proponents of oral health and holistic health solutions, the miswak is an ideal alternative to the toothbrush.
Wondering how to actually use and care for your miswak? Keep reading!
Tips for Using a Miswak Toothbrush
So how exactly do you use a stick to brush your teeth? It’s pretty simple, but the following tips for care and best practices with a miswak toothbrush will help you make the most of this tool.
How to Use a Miswak
Using a miswak is similar to using a toothbrush, except you won’t need tooth powder, toothpaste, or even water for rinsing. You can get a highly rated Miswak toothbrush on Amazon, then follow these steps to get one of the best brushes of your life:
- Peel approximately one centimeter of bark to expose a small section of bristles at the top of the miswak.
- Spend 30-60 seconds gently chewing the bristles to soften and separate them.
- Hold the miswak vertically (perpendicular) to the mouth), and brush the teeth using a tight circular pattern.
- Once you’ve finished brushing, use the bristles of the miswak to target the areas between the teeth and the gumline, as you would floss.
- Cut approximately one centimeter off the tip of the miswak at the beginning of each day, revealing new bristles.
Cleaning and Care
Caring for a miswak toothbrush is pretty simple. Just follow these best practices:
- Don’t store your miswak right by the sink or toilet (tiny splashes of water and bacteria can be absorbed by the miswak).
- Your miswak twig should be supple and hydrated with soft but firm bristles. If it seems to be drying out, soak it in water for a little while to re-hydrate it.
- Use a toothbrush case or small pouch when transporting your miswak to protect it from bacteria.
- Store your miswak in a low-humidity, ventilated environment where it’s out of direct sunlight.
- If you buy your miswak twigs in bulk, store your extras in the freezer to preserve maximum freshness! Your miswak twig won’t ever expire, but it may dry out over an extended period of time, if not used.
Using a miswak toothbrush is just one way you can make your tooth care regimen more holistic, with fewer toxic practices and products that threaten your health. Your biological dentist can give you more tips and ideas for safe, effective ways to keep your teeth strong, white, and healthy.
Don’t have a biological dentist? Learn which ones are near you, and what services they provide, with this free Holistic Dentist Finder!
Robyn Openshaw, MSW, is the bestselling author of The Green Smoothies Diet, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, and 2017’s #1 Amazon Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller, Vibe. Learn more about how to make the journey painless, from the nutrient-scarce Standard American Diet, to a whole-foods diet, in her free video masterclass 12 Steps to Whole Foods.
1. Darout, Ismail A.; Albandar, Jasim M.; Skaug, Nils. “Periodontal status of adult Sudanese habitual users of miswak chewing sticks or toothbrushes”. Acta Odontologica Scandinavica. 58 (1): 25–30.
2. Al lafi T, Ababneh H. “The effect of the extract of the miswak (chewing sticks) used in Jordan and the Middle East on oral bacteria.” International Dental Journal. 1995. 45 (3): 218–222.
3. Mohammed Batwa, Jan Bergström, Sarah Batwa, Meshari F. Al-Otaibi. “Paraclinical Effects of Miswak Extract on Dental Plaque” Saudi Dental Journal. December 2006. Volume 18, No. 3.
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