SHTF Dental Care: Chew Sticks

by Erich

The modern dental industry seems to love to promote the myth that the only way we can keep our teeth healthy and clean is through chemically laden (fluoride, etc) toothpastes and other dental care products.

But what about during an SHTF situation or other long-term emergency where toothpastes might not be available? What do you do then?

Here’s an option you might want to remember when that time comes:

Going Primitive with the Chew Stick

Native cultures around the world have used natural toothbrushes called “chew sticks” to keep their teeth healthy and clean.

To use a chewing stick, what you want to do is get a stick that is about the thickness and length of a pencil and chew on the end of it until it begins to break up into small individual fibers.

Here are a few pictures of a Paper Birch stick that I used as well as its tip before and after chewing:






Using Your Chew Stick

Once you get the end of the stick all mashed up with your teeth it should start producing a bunch of different stick fibers at the end. Be sure to keep chewing until the fibers are very thin and fibrous and not thick or else you’re going to have a painful time brushing.

You then use these fibers to rub all over your teeth and gumline, cleaning the teeth of the plaque and other nasties collected from your eating.

It takes a little bit of practice in the beginning since the bristles of this brush run parallel and not perpendicular to the handle as we’re used to with modern-day toothbrushes.

The Medicinal Benefits of Chew Sticks

The great thing about this method is that most trees and bushes contain active ingredients that destroy harmful bacteria but leave the beneficial bacteria unharmed. This is in many ways superior to modern day toothbrushing since modern toothpastes destroy ALL bacteria in the mouth, thereby suppressing the beneficial bacteria as well.

In addition, if you use sticks that also have medicinal properties like tannins, it can actually strengthen your gums and improve the tissue.

Add to this the combination of an aromatic plant like Wild Mint or Wintergreen and it will really keep your breath fresh and your mouth clean.

What Types of Wood Can I Use?

Obviously it’s important you know at least a little bit about what type of wood you are using.

The first thing is, you don’t want to use anything poisonous. Other than that warning, you want to look for a wood that is pretty fibrous and not too hard (very hard woods will not separate into nice soft fibers as shown in my picture above.

To get you started, here are a variety of common woods that are in most areas that you can use:

  • Willow
  • Ash
  • Olive
  • Hazel
  • Mountain Ash
  • Dogwood
  • Hawthorne
  • Peach
  • Birch
  • Apple
  • Chestnut

Trees to Avoid

Some trees you may want to avoid are:

Conifers

Spruce, pine, Cedar, or any other conifer are not ideal since they have resin in the wood which makes it difficult to get fibers that form a useful brush (however, the sap of some conifers make great chewing gum).

Very Hard Trees

Trees like cherry or oak are pretty difficult to make into good brushes because the fibers tend to be too thick.

Poisonous and Bitter Trees

Some trees like Elder and Yew have bark that is poisonous so obviously it’s a good idea to stay away from these. And others like Maple have a strong bitter taste which most people will have a hard time stomaching.

My Own Experiences

I’ve used chew sticks on and off for years and am always very impressed with how smooth and clean my teeth feel after using one of these.

A colleague of mine is also a big believer in chew sticks (he uses them exclusively without toothpaste) and he mentioned to me that when he visited the dentist, she was so impressed with how healthy and clean his teeth were (ie no plaque). She was even more impressed when he mentioned that he doesn’t use modern toothbrushes or toothpaste and uses only a chew stick.

Try it for yourself. You’ll be surprised…

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16 Comments»

Comment by The Colonel
2014-05-22 21:19:27

And if you get a toothache, you can chew the inner bark of the Prickly Ash tree to numb the area.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-05-23 15:52:13

Great tip Colonel, thanks!

 
 
Comment by Awake@Last
2014-05-23 19:21:28

Would a crabapple tree count as apple in the list?

 
Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-05-23 20:05:01

@Awake…

Yes, crabapple would work. Give it a try and let us know!

– Erich

 
Comment by Pat
2014-05-23 21:45:45

Another cool thing is willow bark acts like aspirin. So you can make a chew stick that relieves aches and pains as well as cleaning your teeth.

 
Comment by Pat
2014-05-23 21:52:43

I just remembered, my dad used to alway have a small stick in his mouth that he chewed on. We were a poor farm family back in the fifties. You did not go to a dentist unless it really hurt. My dad’s teeth were perfect. He never went to a dentist because we could not afford it. He died with every tooth God gave him. But not many days went by that he was not chewing on a small stick. Now I know why. Thanks for triggering the memories. He died when I was just ten years old so any memory is great. I am going out as soon as the rain stops and getting some beechnut sticks. Love the minty taste.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-05-29 16:20:51

Great comment Pat. I love these first-hand experiences!

 
 
Comment by Tolik
2014-05-25 14:41:29

Dont use creosote bush ( chaparal ) if you live in the southwest .

 
Comment by Set
2014-06-13 12:58:35

One comment quiet a few of the trees advised for use as chewsticks are determined as poisonous to humans such as apple, peach, chestnut, peach, and willow I do not know of any others because I only searched trees I can Identify.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-06-13 16:31:00

Set,

I’m assuming you’re referring to Hydrogen Cyanide which exists in the bark and seeds of most of these trees.

In large does it can restrict how oxygen gets to your cells (thus being a poison) but in small doses it is actually stimulating to the lungs and stomach. Almonds also contain this (which we will get a lot more than by brushing your teeth with these sticks) so I wouldn’t worry too much. I’d be real curious to compare the small dose of Hydrogen Cyanide with the large amount of flouride that we ingest through normal toothpaste. Just a thought…

 
 
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