We previously extolled the virtues of washing your clothes off the grid, since doing so will fight infection and keep you smelling fresh. For the same reasons, it’s essential to take care of your teeth, no matter where you have to survive. On top of the smell and cleanliness factors, dealing with a bad cavity or dental abscess can lead to crippling pain or even septic shock.

Like your dentist says, daily brushing is necessary to keep your pearly whites clean.

Just like your dentist says, daily brushing is necessary to keep your pearly whites clean.

In a survival situation, visiting a dentist isn’t going to be an option, so you’ll need to maintain your teeth daily if at all possible. If you don’t have your bug-out bag with a toothbrush or toothpaste, this becomes a bit more difficult—but don’t worry, it’s certainly possible to keep your teeth clean with limited resources.

Bushcraft toothbrush bristles

The key to any toothbrush is the fine, flexible bristles that brush away particles between teeth.

The entire point of brushing your teeth is to remove plaque and particles through the friction of the bristles. Knowing this, it’s not hard to think of how to construct a toothbrush in the wild. You’ll want to start with a nice twig, preferably a young, soft, and relatively flexible variety of wood. This will then be whittled and split at one end to form a bushcraft toothbrush.

Bushcraft toothbrush whittling

Apply light pressure to notch the twig in a cross-cut pattern (be extremely careful not to cut yourself).

This video from Far North Bushcraft and Survival shows the entire process:

The Cliff’s notes version is as follows:

  • Find a flexible twig. The video above uses willow, but pine or spruce should also work.
  • Whittle away the bark, and square off one end.
  • Make 5-6 cuts 1/4-inch deep into the end.
  • Turn 90 degrees, and make 5-6 more cuts.
  • Hammer, crush, or chew the “bristles” to soften.
  • Brush each tooth with a downward sweeping motion.
Bushcraft toothbrush willow branch

The toothbrush bristles beginning to take shape.

The host also mentions an antiseptic toothpaste alternative: spruce pitch (crystallized sap). It’s known to have antiseptic qualities that will fight bacteria growth, and it can be chewed on much like gum. Spruce pitch even has a refreshing evergreen flavor.

Even if you always carry hygiene supplies in your survival kit, it’s good to know how to improvise a bushcraft toothbrush if the situation calls for it.


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