No Toothbrush? No Problem! 5-Ways to Clean Your Teeth without a Toothbrush

By: Rosie Torres, R.D.H.


Summer is almost here and we’re all starting to plan for those well-deserved and long overdue vacations or long weekend trips. You’ve packed everything you need – clothes, snacks, medications. You’ve thought of everything…uh-oh…except…your toothbrush. What do you do when you’ve reached your destination and realize it’s time to brush? Here are five ways to brush up in a pinch!

5-Ways To Clean Your Teeth Without A Toothbrush:

1.Paper Towel Brush

Take a clean paper towel (the thicker the better) and wrap it firmly around your index finger. Wet the towel slightly and add toothpaste if you have some. Use the damp paper towel to remove some of the plaque and leftover food particles from your teeth by placing it against the gum line and using short strokes to get to the top of your teeth. Rather than brushing multiple teeth at once the way you would with a toothbrush, focus on cleaning one tooth at a time. Use the same technique for the insides of your teeth and then “brush” the biting surfaces. You can also use another damp paper towel wrapped around your finger to clean your tongue in a pinch. This will help to fight bad breath bacteria.

2.Finger Brush

No paper towels? Just use your finger. “Brushing” your teeth with some toothpaste and your finger can remove plaque when you’re “toothbrush-less.” First, wash your hands. Then, rinse your mouth out with some water a few times to clean out any leftover food debris. Next, put some toothpaste on your finger and gently rub it around all of the sides of your teeth and gums just like you would with a toothbrush. Avoid applying too much pressure just like you would with a toothbrush. Don’t forget both the front and back of your teeth! Now, rinse out with water. Repeat 2-3 times per day until you can brush as usual.

3.Washcloth Brush

The rough texture of a washcloth will rub off more plaque than your finger by itself ever could. First, rinse your mouth out with water to remove any leftover food debris. Then, wrap the washcloth around your index finger, and put toothpaste on the covered finger. If you’ve forgotten your toothpaste too, this is still effective. Rub the washcloth around all the areas of your teeth and gums. You can also use another side of the washcloth to “brush” your tongue. Rinse out with water and finish with a mouthwash if you have some.

4. Munch on Some Veggies

Can’t brush? Munch on some crunchy vegetables like celery, kale or raw carrots. Veggies high in fiber can naturally clean your teeth. As you chew, the biting motion can remove existing food particles and clean your teeth.

5. Chew Sugarless Gum

Similar to chewing on veggies, chewing on gum can help to remove plaque and food particles when brushing is not an option. It will also make you salivate, which is the body’s natural “mouthwash.” Make sure to choose sugarless gum, and look for an ingredient called “xylitol,” a naturally occurring sweetener that inhibits the growth of the bacteria that cause cavities. Trident White is a good option.

Forgot your toothpaste too?

Make a baking soda “toothpaste.” Baking soda is already in many types of toothpastes. Since it is mildly abrasive, it can whiten teeth somewhat since it helps to remove surface stains and soft plaque. If you forgot your toothpaste, but have some household baking soda on hand, you can mix a teaspoon with a few drops of water until it forms a gritty “paste.” Scoop up the baking soda mixture onto the bristles of your toothbrush or makeshift paper towel/washcloth/finger brush. Brush your teeth in quick sweeping motions. The baking soda might not taste so great but rinsing out with water right after should get rid of the taste and remove any leftover baking soda.

Other Oral Hygiene Packables

While all of these methods above are useful alternatives to brushing when you’ve left your oral hygiene products at home, you can also keep a bag of disposable, on-the-go toothbrushes handy. I always have Colgate Max Fresh Wisps stashed in my bag if I feel the need to brush anytime, anywhere…without toothpaste, water or having to rinse! To use these, just put the mini brush in your mouth, press it against one of your teeth to break the seal on the pre-pasted toothpaste (I recommend using your molars). Once you break the seal, you can just brush normally. Since there’s no water needed, the toothpaste doesn’t foam up, but your mouth will still get nice and minty, and you’ll get that just-brushed feeling. Once you’re done, just throw it out. Scope Outlast Mini Brushes are a similar option.

This summer, or any time you’re away from home and find yourself without a toothbrush or toothpaste, follow the tips above. While these aren’t long-term solutions, they can temporarily help to remove bad bacteria from your teeth. And, as always, maintaining healthy teeth and gums with regular dental cleanings and exams is the best way to get summer ready! At Gallery 57 Dental, we’ll help you achieve a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime.

Call 212.246.8700 to find out more information or click here to schedule an appointment with Gallery57Dental.

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