How to brush without a toothbrush: alternative hacks & tricks

When you’re traveling or in a situation where you don’t have access to regular dental hygiene tools, you might want to know how to brush without a toothbrush. Anyone could end up in a situation where you don’t have a toothbrush, and having an alternative to brushing could come in handy. Sometimes, you might even end up with no toothpaste! What happens then?

No need to worry! That is why in this article we will tell you about different methods of brushing your teeth without toothpaste as well. Let’s get into it!

How can I brush my teeth without a toothbrush?

Whether you are sleeping over at a friend’s place or it is a one-night stand, nobody likes to go to bed without brushing their teeth. All that leftover food debris in your mouth is not going to help your oral health. Maybe you came prepared and have one of those travel toothbrushes on you. But what if there is no toothbrush to be found? What can you do then? Before reading ahead here is a list of toothbrush alternatives.

  • Textured teeth wipes
  • Your finger
  • Paper towel
  • Washcloth
  • Sugar-free gum 
  • Oil pulling
  • Water

You could consider textured teeth wipes

Textured teeth wipes or dental wipes are similar to normal wet wipes, but there is some built-in texture to them. The texture will help you clean plaque from your teeth when you do not have access to a toothbrush. Brushing wipes come in a size that can easily fit on your finger and you can use your covered finger to clean your teeth.

Remember, even though textured teeth wipes might be easy to use, they should never be a replacement for brushing your teeth. There is additional plaque that these wipes can not remove from your teeth. So, use them only when it is necessary.

Use your finger

Finger brushing to clean your teeth when there is no toothbrush can be the most practical way. First, wash your hands with soap because you do not need extra bad bacteria. Then use your index finger and put a dab of toothpaste on it. Now you can use your index finger just like a toothbrush. Rub the toothpaste on your teeth in a circular motion. After cleaning all your teeth just swish some water in your mouth to get rid of the toothpaste and food particles.

Even though using your fingers does not seem harmful, you should never replace them as a means to clean your teeth. Your finger does not have bristles or the needed texture to be able to remove plaque from the chewing surfaces in your mouth. And there is always the risk of nicking your gums with your nails. If it is just for one night or so, it is ok but try not to overdo it.

You could use some paper towel

The next best thing to brush your teeth without a toothbrush would be using a form of paper towel. The thicker the paper towel the better it can help you remove food residue and bacteria from teeth. Get a piece of clean paper towel and wrap it around your index finger. Dampen the paper towel and then you can use it to scrub your teeth. When you are done with your teeth get another damp paper towel and use it instead of a tongue scraper to clean your tongue as well.

Using a paper towel might not sound like such a bad idea, but there is a downside to it. A paper towel is not abrasive enough to clean your teeth properly. Also, it could leave behind little bits and pieces of it in your mouth.

Or a washcloth

Instead of a damp paper towel, you could opt for a washcloth. Since paper towels can disintegrate easier especially when they get wet. Make sure you have a clean washcloth. Put it on your index finger wet it with water and rub the damp washcloth on your teeth to clean them.

A washcloth might work well in cleaning your teeth, but it may not be effective in reaching the hard-to-reach places in your mouth to remove nasty plaque. Using a washcloth could also be rough on your gums.

Chew some sugar-free gum

Chewing gum can be very effective in removing food particles from the crevices between teeth. It can also get rid of bad breath. Nowadays most gums are sugar-free but definitely check the packaging to be sure. Chewing gum triggers your salivary glands to create more saliva which will help with balancing the pH in your mouth. Speaking of pH, it brings us to the next excellent toothbrush alternative. 

Oil pulling

You might have heard about oil pulling and its benefits. This ancient practice could be helpful to achieve clean teeth when you do not have a toothbrush. You can use a teaspoon of coconut oil to do this. Put that tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth and swish it gently in your mouth for 15 minutes. When you are done, spit the oil out and rinse your mouth with some water.

However, it’s important to remember that excessive oil pulling can cause problems in your mouth for you. It could be hard on your jaw muscles and you might end up with a sore jaw. And since there need to be more studies done on its benefits, it is best not to overdo it with oil pulling.

The last resort: water

Worst case scenario you have none of the things mentioned above. Just use water! Water with its neutral pH can balance the pH in your mouth. Water can also dislodge some of the bacterial plaque and food debris from your teeth. So swish some fresh water in your mouth for a couple of minutes and then you can rub your teeth with your index finger to help clean them a bit better.

What if I don’t have any toothpaste?

So far we have only talked about not having a toothbrush and what you can do in that case. But what if you do not have toothpaste either? How to brush your teeth without toothpaste then? First of all, you can always brush your teeth without toothpaste. But no worries! We have provided you with some useful hacks to use instead of toothpaste to clean your teeth and end up with a clean mouth, such as baking soda or homemade strawberry toothpaste.

Baking soda

In the olden days, baking soda was actually used as toothpaste and nowadays a lot of toothpaste brands have incorporated baking soda in their toothpaste formula. So, if you do not have a toothbrush to brush your teeth simply make a little baking soda mixture using water and baking soda. Wet your finger and dab it in some baking soda and then rub it on your teeth. It might not taste like bubblegum flavor toothpaste but gets the job done!

Even though a lot of toothpaste products contain baking soda as an ingredient, it is not something that dentists recommend using all the time. Baking soda can be pretty abrasive on your tooth enamel and cause it to erode. So, it is best to be cautious when you are baking soda to clean your teeth.

Homemade strawberry toothpaste

No strawberry jam here! But you can use strawberries to make yourself an alternative to toothpaste. Strawberries contain vitamin C which is good for your gum health. They also have some chemical compounds that would help whiten your teeth as well.

Here is how you can clean your teeth using homemade strawberry toothpaste. You just need one strawberry and some baking soda. Wash the strawberry and put it in a bowl. Use a fork to smash the strawberry and add a pinch of baking soda. Your toothpaste is ready! After brushing your teeth with the strawberry mixture make sure to rinse your mouth well with water.

It is essential to remember that strawberries contain sugar and which could lead to tooth decay, so don’t think that this recipe is a long-term replacement.

Can I borrow someone else’s toothbrush if I don’t have one?

We all know the saying “sharing is caring”, well not in this case! Sharing a toothbrush is the red line that you should never cross if you want to have healthy teeth.

You should not be sharing a toothbrush with anyone, even your intimate partner. If you are wondering about your partner and think “We already kiss each other so the bacteria in our mouths have already mixed, what’s the big deal?” think again. The problem is you never know what kind of bacteria your toothbrush or your partner’s toothbrush could be harboring. So it would not hurt your dental hygiene if you do not brush for a night. You can always go with one of the options we have talked about in this article!

What are the risks of brushing without a toothbrush?

There is a reason that dental professionals recommend using a soft bristle toothbrush and brushing your teeth twice a day. The risks of brushing without a toothbrush may not be immediate or it does not affect your dental health right away. Nevertheless, if you skip your regular brushing and use these methods of “how to brush without a toothbrush” in the long run, you will come across some dental diseases such as gingivitis and tooth decay. This would be because of the accumulation of plaque and tartar on your teeth.

Therefore, it would be beneficial for your oral health to not replace any of these methods as a long-term way of cleaning your mouth and teeth, and remember, these are temporary solutions.


Graveland MP, Rosema NA, Timmerman MF, Van der Weijden GA. The plaque-removing efficacy of a finger brush (I-Brush). J Clin Periodontol. 2004 Dec;31(12):1084-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-051X.2004.00607.x. PMID: 15560809. Link