How to Brush Your Teeth Without a Toothbrush

3 ways to brush your teeth without a toothbrush when you’ve left your toothbrush behind on your last minute trip. 

We’ve all had that last minute scramble to throw together all of your stuff for a last-minute trip, or for a trip that you’ve procrastinated packing for. It can be hard to keep track of everything you need and we’ve all arrived at our destination to find that despite our best efforts, we forgot something. 

For me, that is nearly always a toothbrush. Luckily, there are many ways you can keep your teeth clean and your breath smelling nice until you are able to obtain a toothbrush. You shouldn’t wait to get one, but these alternative methods should do well at maintaining oral hygiene for at least a little while. 

Whether it’s as simple as a paper towel and some water, or packing a pack of Fresh-Tips mini travel toothbrushes, there are many ways to clean your teeth when you accidentally leave your regular brush at home. 

In this article we’ll share some ways to brush your teeth without a toothbrush regardless of where you are. Keep reading to find out:

  • Ways to brush your teeth without a toothbrush when you have toothpaste.
  • Foods that can help to clean your teeth when you don’t have a toothbrush
  • Ways to clean your teeth when you don’t have a toothbrush or toothpaste
  • Weird ways to clean your teeth without a toothbrush! 

Common ways to brush your teeth without a toothbrush. 

Use a paper towel to brush your teeth

A rough material such as a paper towel can clean your teeth similarly to a toothbrush. 

Now, I know that the idea of cleaning your teeth with a paper towel is probably not the nicest idea. If you have sensitive teeth like me, the idea may be outright revolting. Then again, I’d take that over the buildup of gunk in my mouth and the bad breath and risk of infection that comes with it. 

In order to substitute a toothbrush with a paper towel you will need a paper towel (duh) and your index finger…or another finger if you don’t have an index finger, but hopefully you do. 

Wrap the towel around your finger and moisten it a little bit with water. Apply toothpaste and clean your teeth in a circular motion, moving from your gums down. 

When you’ve cleaned the inside and outside of your teeth thoroughly, swipe the paper towel once over your tongue to pick up any gunk that has built up there since your last brush. Rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash when finished. 

Use your finger to brush your teeth

Using your finger as an alternative to a toothbrush may seem a bit weird, but it is the simplest way to brush your teeth without a toothbrush.

Brushing your teeth with your finger is very similar to brushing your teeth with a paper towel, except for two key things:

  • You don’t use a paper towel
  • Your hands must be clean (clean hands recommended for anything involving your mouth)

Like the paper towel, you want to moisten your finger with water, apply toothpaste, and clean your teeth in a circular motion moving from your gums down. Rinse with water or mouthwash. 

Foods that can help to clean your mouth when you don’t have a toothbrush.

While it may seem counterproductive to use food to clean other food out of your mouth, there are a few foods that are great at cleaning your teeth! Keep reading to find out how cheese can actually be beneficial to your oral hygiene!

a picture of brightly colored fruits and vegetables lined up in rows.  Eggplant, carrots, bananas, cherries and more can all be seen.
Fruits and vegetables with high fiber and low sugar can help to clean your teeth when you don’t have a toothbrush.

High fiber, low sugar fruits and vegetables can act as good alternatives to a toothbrush.

High fiber vegetables and fruits like carrots, celery, and broccoli can help to keep your mouth clean by dislodging odor-causing bacteria and plaque. Just make sure the celery doesn’t get caught in your teeth!

Vegetables with a high water content such as cucumber can also help to rinse nasty bacteria from your mouth. 

While eating fibrous vegetables does help to maintain the overall cleanliness of your teeth, it doesn’t do anything to prevent bad breath. If you are living off the land and far from anything but nature, finding a mint plant to chew on could help with this issue. 

Eating Cheese

This one’s for all the cheese-lovers out there!

Cheese increases your production of saliva which plays many roles in preventing odor-causing bacteria from forming in your mouth. Cheese and other dairy products are also high in calcium and other minerals that strengthen teeth and rebuild tooth enamel. 

Chewing sugar free gum can clean your teeth

One of the best excuses to chew gum is oral hygiene. 

I know there are many people who disliked going to the dentist as a child, or maybe even as an adult, but as a kid I loved it! Mainly because my dentist would give us small packs of sugar-free gum after our visits. 

Sugar-free gum or low sugar gum can help to pick up any leftover food that is caught between your teeth and also increases your production of saliva. Saliva naturally rinses your mouth and keeps it from drying out, preventing bacteria.

Ways to clean your mouth when you don’t have a toothbrush or toothpaste.

Rinse your mouth with water and mouthwash

Water can rinse your mouth and clean off surface level bacteria on teeth and tongue. 

If you have mouthwash on hand, doing a good wash and rinse of your mouth can help to keep your breath fresh and wash away surface bacteria on teeth, gums, and tongue.

 If you do use mouthwash, it is important to rinse with water as well so that your mouth doesn’t dry out (dry mouth can allow for odor-causing bacteria to form).

A man holding mouthwash and its cap as if preparing to use it.  
Antibacterial mouthwash is great for rinsing your mouth of bacteria and germs. Rinse with water to prevent dryness. 


Lemon juice and salt cleanse

A slightly more appetizing form of oral hygiene, lemon juice and salt paste is another great way to clean your teeth if you do not have a toothbrush on hand. Naturally antibacterial, the acidity of this substance helps to scour away any grime clinging to your teeth, gums, and tongue. 

While this mixture is not for the faint of heart to try, it will leave you with a nice citrusy breath. It will also alert you very quickly to any cuts or abrasions you may have in your mouth. 


Strange, but effective, ways to clean your teeth if you are desperate for fresh breath. 

When I say strange, what I really mean is a little outdated compared to the modern methods of maintaining oral hygiene. The following methods have actually been traced back thousands of years and were some of the ways ancient societies maintained oral hygiene and health. 

While I mostly included this because of the historical aspect of these methods, they could be helpful to know if you find yourself stranded in nature without access to stores and forgot to pack or lost your toothbrush. 


Crushed seashells can help to clean your teeth.

While it may be hard to think of a time where crushed seashells would be anywhere near your mouth, this is a method that may be used in more extreme cases, such as if you are stranded on a deserted island. 

If you are stranded and one of your top priorities is dental care, I commend your spirit. 

Humor aside, toothpastes such as crushed seashells have been dated back as far as 5000 BC and aided in the development of dental hygiene as society progressed. While this method may make your breath smell bad, it can remove grime from your teeth and tongue. Be sure to rinse thoroughly afterwards. 

a group of sea shells
Seashells were once used to create a paste that was used by ancient peoples for maintaining oral hygiene. 


The chew stick; the early toothbrush

Another tool from the ancient world, the chew stick was the early toothbrush and it has been traced back nearly 3,500 years into human history. This oral hygiene tool is simply a twig with one side of it chewed until it is frayed. 

Historically there were certain trees that were used for this tool, such as the neem tree of India, which has antibacterial properties that aided in oral health, or trees such as birch that had a nice scent. 

Like the crushed seashells, this is likely not the first thing you’d turn to when you forget your toothbrush, but in a desperate situation (or a long camping trip) it could be helpful. 

100% clean and fresh mouth using fresh tips.  Image displays the brush and freshening ring from 8 fresh tips around the border of the image.

Avoid the unpleasant seashell paste and chew stick by packing a maxi pack of Fresh-Tips mini travel toothbrushes. Tasty and gentle on your mouth, they couldn’t be farther from the seashell toothpaste that should be a last resort. 

While some of these methods are more common and more reasonable than others, I hope that you have some new ideas of alternative teeth cleaning tools that provide aid in a variety of situations. 

Of course, you could also make sure to get yourself a pack of FreshTip’s mini disposable toothbrushes to keep in all your travel bags so you never have to use crushed seashells to clean your teeth. 

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