Take a look at these things…
The well-known petrochemical molds from bathroom shelves of billions of us that we voluntarily stick in our mouths day after day, like colorful lolly-pops or pacifiers that are supposed to sooth toothaches and lessen (parental) worries about dental hygiene.
Here, presented, our own last two, shared between the three of us with our daughter up until some weeks ago. Yes, she got the “luxury” to choose between Mommy’s green or Tati’s (that’s me) blue – we just love to share in our family, you know.
I call them the brushes of an ignorant past. In our home definitely a past, albeit a recent one: haven’t quite cut the hog bristles off their heads and into the compost and haven’t recycled the already recycled plastic handles yet. But soooon! – as Csermely would say with an uncanny grin on her face.
About a year ago I even saved a “blurp” for the like in my ebook, wondering about the sanity in doing such a thing. To poke around in one of our most intimate body parts with foreign to nature and perhaps multifold recycled and over-dyed material that is so viscerally nasty (petroleum and derivatives) that humanity as a whole hasn’t even dedicated lyric odes to it in any language that would have excelled among our universal classics as a sign of love and appreciation, the kind we have confessed to glass or even coal. These things seemingly are just bound for the roadside ditch, meant to take a flight in all their weightlessness, resettle some place else, accumulate and slowly suffocate the Earth.
Yes, we have come to find this act an ignorant and harmful one that just doesn’t seem to fit the rest in a nature-informed life scheme. And above all, why do it to our children? Why teach them well-intentioned self-reliance by showing the wrong thing? Why sell the good with the bad?
So we decided to finally start doing it right, without self-contradictions. Ironically, what made us switch to all-natural, was an unexpected gift from our discerning former housesitters: a bundle of exotic (to here) sweet licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root sticks with one cue: a stick end was minced into its fibers like the bristles of a paintbrush. The smell was familiar, but we were awaiting the candy…
Had to quick look up what the uses were to these fragrant, pencil thick root pieces…
Ahaa! – tooth brushing! And even though it’s contraindicated for expecting mothers and those still breastfeeding, the dried licorice root along with the twigs of many-many other woody plant species (typically trees) have been used for millennia in virtually all traditional cultures. Only we, clueless “modernites”, dumbed down by TV commercials and our dentists were never told…
The licorice root has anti inflammatory properties, just don’t swallow the massive amounts of saliva it produces – does not equal the candy and it may even be harmful if it gets ingested too many times in row (please do your own research in this regard). Go the good o’ way: spit the foam and rinse.
They also recommend and I have already tried the oak twig, which has similar antiseptic property to the licorice and is astringent, due to its tannins. It gave my gums a pleasantly numbing, however invigorating sensation for quite a few minutes.
Basically all the fruit trees belonging to the Rosaceae family, which is the majority of temperate zone fruit tree species, from plums through cherries to apples and quinces are safe to harvest from.
Right now we alternate between plums and licorice, but already have some apple twigs drying to experiment with next. I expect a similar effect to the oaks from the puckery quince.
And as a side benefit to beautifully sparkling teeth, one gets all these wonderfully diverse aromas in her or his mouth from plant to plant and maybe even from season to season – the latter might just be a joy of the advanced connoisseurs.
Oh, and how do you actually brush with twigs or root sticks? Cut a piece that suits the size of your hand and purpose, meaning that for instance if you’d like to reach behind your teeth a short and thinner brush would probably perform the best.
Then with a knife, your nails or teeth peel back and discard the thin tissue coating the twig on a stretch of about 1 cm (1/2″), which you stick under your eye-tooth, bite and rotate, so break the end of the twig axially into its individual fibers, until it looks and feels like a brush.
You cannot go any simpler than that. Isn’t it fantastic?! And we didn’t know about it, forgot this basic, common sense knowledge for so long …
After this little great discovery, I decided to throw my grand plans of designing a natural toothbrush out the window. It would have been based on the looks and some performance features of an average plastic counterpart, but created of larger feather stems and long mangalica pig hair (or any other locally native animal’s hair that is stiff enough). At times design need not step in just because it could, and let nature perform instead. This way I (the self-withdrawn designer) don’t even have to worry about the approval or endorsement of public healthcare authorities.
What are we all waiting for? Let’s get out there and harvest our toothbrushes from nature, whether it’s a bundle of them, a yearly supply for the family’s home use or with the same gratuity removing but a single brush from a donor tree along the trail we hike.
It’s there and it’s for free. Just remember that occasionally you’ll still need a toothpick .