How can I brush my teeth on a deserted island?

If you could bring one thing with you to a deserted island, what would you bring?

I doubt that you said toothbrush.

If your one thing wasn’t a toothbrush, you may now be wondering how you would take care of your teeth while on a deserted island. Though it may seem impossible, there are a few easy ways that will keep your teeth clean and in top health until you’re rescued.

One important note before we go into the tips of how to take care of your oral hygiene while on a deserted island is why we brush our teeth. We brush our teeth to keep them healthy and to remove plaque and food particles. When you think of oral hygiene in those simplistic terms, you don’t need much advanced technology to accomplish that. Your toothbrush and toothpaste basically act as abrasive scrubbers that remove plaque tooth surfaces, this is easily replicated in the wild.

Another interesting outcome of being deserted on an island without modern conveniences and without modern food is that your diet will likely be better for your teeth. The common modern diet is high in sugar. Sugary foods give the bacteria that live in our mouths the food they need to reproduce. These bacteria create plaque, which hardens and grows thicker  when teeth aren’t brushed. Reducing sugar intake reduces the amount of plaque and bacteria in our mouths.

Some summer oral health tips.

Now for the fun part. Here’s how you can brush your teeth when stranded on a deserted island.

To replace brushing, you can clean the surfaces of your teeth by chewing on a stick or rubbing them with something abrasive. This can be as simple as using a leaf (preferably non-poisonous), a piece of clothing or a stick to scrub or brush away the plaque on teeth. If you choose to chew on a stick, fray or soften the end first. Once you’ve softened one side of the stick, lightly rub it against your teeth or start chewing on it to get all the tooth surfaces. If you can find a stick from a tree with anti-microbial properties such as Gum Tree, Tea Tree or Neem, even better. Sticks from these trees have been used for cleaning teeth throughout history by many different cultures.

To replace your flossing routine, try to find something that will slide between teeth. Many apes use their body hair, which is an option if you can find one long enough and coarse enough to not break. Another option is small, soft animal bones that can be used as a toothpick. Your last option is to find a fibrous, stringy plant that can be torn apart to make a long, floss like string.

To replace your mouthwash routine, you can try swishing with saltwater. Salt is a natural disinfectant. Swishing or rinsing with plain water is also a great technique to neutralize the mouth’s pH and to keep damage from acidic foods to a minimum.

If you find yourself stranded on a deserted island be sure to avoid seeds and foods with tough husks that could get stuck in the gums, be difficult to remove and possibly cause an abscess.

We hope these tips were fun and possibly even useful. If you could bring one thing to a deserted island, what would you bring?

About Mark C. Marchbanks, D.D.S.

Dr. Mark Marchbanks has practiced dentistry in Arlington Texas since 1983. He enjoys caring for patients young and old. You can find Dr. Marchbanks on
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If it's been more than 6 months since your last teeth cleaning, give us a call today to schedule your check-up.

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