Miswak is Nature’s Twiggy Toothbrush

Ever brush your teeth with a stick from a tree? This brother shows how it’s done

Twigs for oral hygiene may seem like a curious idea, better suited for the holistic type than today’s modern lifestyle. However, before the advent of the ubiquitous plastic toothbrush, miswak, a natural alternative made from the Salvadora persica tree was the traditional way for cleansing teeth. Although still popular in many areas of the Middle East, those from Western cultures have little or no knowledge of miswak, relying mostly on the conventional methodology recommended by Dental Associations.

For centuries miswak was known to be affective against tooth caries yet scientific research has only recently validated this age-old tradition.

Miswak has been found to inhibit bacterial growth and retard the buildup of plaque, helping to improve oral health and freshen the breath.

A research group from Sweden concluded that miswak is “as effective as toothbrushing for reducing plaque and gingivitis, and that the antimicrobial effect of S. persica is beneficial for prevention and treatment of periodontal disease.”

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To make a miswak, the bark around one end of a twig is chewed off, breaking down the fibers to form bristles. This is dipped in water to soften and then used to brush the teeth.

miswak toothbrish yemenFor Muslims it has religious significance, recommended by the Prophet Muhammad for cleansing and purification before prayer and during the holy month of Ramadan. It is therefore not surprising that Muslims are the biggest advocated of miswak, especially among the male community.

For those who prefer conventional toothbrushes, some manufactures have formulated toothpaste with miswak extract.

This toothbrush is natural, biodegradable and with proven ability to reduce tooth decay. In addition, the Salvadora persica trees (pictured below) are indigenous to arid regions and planting them reduces desertification in areas where little else is capable of growing. This helps communities develop a sustainable income while preserving an important part of their cultural heritage.

Now that’s something to smile about.

Lower image of miswak user via yobserver


About Sarah Melamed

Sarah Melamed grew up in an intercultural household in upstate New York, where her love of culinary diversity and the great outdoors was first developed. She immigrated to Israel to study plant biology and worked in the field of molecular biology for several years before turning her attention to her growing family. The knowledge she acquired during her studies is now used to research edible wild plants which she incorporates into Middle Eastern cuisine.

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