p13 Alternatives to simple hand-held toothbrushes.

Many parts of the world possibly have reduced access to toothbrushes.

A kind patient brought me back samples of a type of wood stick from

an African country many years ago which people there used for cleaning.

They would work if it were food that was being removed. Toothpicks do

that here, but should be used with great caution - they can do a lot of accidental

damage too. Wedges, or wood sticks, often made out of sandlewood because it

is soft enough to not damage the teeth but strong enough to not fall apart,

can also clean between accessible teeth at the front.

But if the requirement is to keep the teeth for life then there is, in my opinion,

no alternative to using a simple toothbrush.

 You don't have one?  So let's make one!

A toothbrush should be about the length of your hand, laid across the open palm, from the tip of the longest finger to the start of the wrist.

At the end which does the cleaning action in the mouth, there are a set of bristles which together are about twice the length of your thumb-nail and half the width - their length is about the same as the thickness of your smallest finger. The thickness of handle doesn't matter as long as you can comfortably hold it in one hand.

Choose a hardwood that you know is not poisonous or harmful to you in any way. Find a thin branch - this will be the handle - and cut it immediately after a junction where another (smaller) branch leaves it. Then cut the other end off the thin branch. Cut the smaller branch the length you need the "bristles". Then mash that part to break the stump into the "bristles".

There's your toothbrush. But now you see the problem which you are going to solve next. Your first attempt will probably be a disaster - my first attempts at anything always are - too much enthusiasm - not enough knowledge! Not just any old tree will do. You will need to look for a tree which has its branches coming out at right angles to the main branch, has wood fibres which mash into a fairly fine 'bush' but remain straight enough to carry across the teeth and gums.

Electric toothbrushes.

There are many people in the world who have some disability which prevents them from holding an ordinary toothbrush. If an electric toothbrush gets round this problem, then go for it.

If your child will not brush his/her teeth normally but buying her/him an electric one encourages successfully, then go for it.

But unless the electric toothbrush moves the head in the direction and pattern that I described on page7, then, in my opinion, the teeth will eventually be lost.  

Water jet equipment.

These can be very successful for cleaning those areas which the toothbrush cannot reach. Examples are: pockets below the gum surface; underneath the supported (pontic) part of bridges.

However, unless the water jet is powerful enough to dislodge that film covering, it will only be successful in routine cleaning as an accessory to the toothbrush.

It's a bit messy - water finds its way all over the place - and it takes quite a time to do too.

Specialist types of toothbrush.

There are many types of toothbrushes designed to do specific jobs. For example you can obtain a conical-shaped head with bristles attached to a thin wire. There is another with just a few bristles together. There are others.

If you brush your teeth in the way descibed and feel that for some reason you are not reaching one or other part, then by all means use these varieties. But it is still best if you can somehow achieve everything with a single brush. It makes you more mobile - you can end up anywhere at short notice and still not miss out on a really good cleaning of your teeth.

If you see a apprentice stone mason climb to the top of the old tower monument under repair, you'll see he's dragged up with him a huge box of tools, one for each shape of stone carving. There he meets the master mason, Auld Bald Wullie, who looks a bit like an old stone carving himself. Wullie has only got one big cold chisel and a wooden mallet. Wullie has taught himself to do everything with that one chisel and mallet and he is renowned as the best in the business.

I think our teeth and gums deserve the style of perfection that Wullie exhibits - just the one toothbrush with an expert, you, on one end!

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