Chewing sticks: timeless natural toothbrushes for oral cleansing

J Periodontal Res. 2001 Oct;36(5):275-84. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0765.2001.360502.x.


It is generally accepted that oral hygiene maintenance through regular removal of dental plaque and food deposits is an essential factor in the prevention of dental caries and periodontal disease. Methods for oral hygiene vary from country to country and from culture to culture. Despite the widespread use of toothbrushes and toothpastes, natural methods of tooth cleaning using chewing sticks selected and prepared from the twigs, stems or roots from a variety of plant species have been practised for thousands of years in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas. Selected clinical studies have shown that chewing sticks, when properly used, can be as efficient as toothbrushes in removing dental plaque due to the combined effect of mechanical cleaning and enhanced salivation. It has also been suggested that antimicrobial substances that naturally protect plants against various invading microorganisms or other parasites may leach out into the oral cavity, and that these compounds may benefit the users by protection against cariogenic and periodontopathic bacteria. Some clinical epidemiological studies are in support of this, and many laboratory investigations have suggested the presence of heterogeneous antimicrobial components extractable using different chemical procedures. A few recent studies have identified some of the active antimicrobial compounds. Today, chewing sticks are still used in many developing countries because of religion and or tradition, and because of their availability, low cost and simplicity. The World Health Organization also encourages their use. The Year 2000 Consensus Report on Oral Hygiene states that chewing sticks may have a role to play in the promotion of oral hygiene, and that evaluation of their effectiveness warrants further research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / therapeutic use
  • DMF Index
  • Dental Plaque / prevention & control
  • Developing Countries*
  • Humans
  • Islam
  • Periodontal Index
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Toothbrushing / instrumentation*


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Plant Extracts