Meswak: the natural toothbrush

J Clin Dent. 1997;8(5):125-9.


The use of a wood stick (meswak or chewing stick) for brushing the teeth continues to be an important tool for oral hygiene care in many Afro-Asian communities. It is inexpensive, customary and used for religious reasons as well. Despite the wide use of meswak, information on its chemical and pharmaceutical contents are scant, particularly in regard to an anticaries effect. In the present study, sticks from Salvadora persica, the most common source for meswak, were analyzed for their soluble and total content of fluoride, calcium, phosphorus and silica. Results showed that the fluoride released from meswak soaked in water was negligible (< 0.07 microgram/ml). Approximately 39% of the total fluoride in the sticks was in a form that could be leached out. The leached calcium and phosphorus averaged 582 micrograms/ml and 34 g/ml, respectively, representing 19.6% and 26.4% of their total content in the sticks. There was a substantial amount of silica in the ashes of meswak. It appears that meswak is probably not particularly active against caries through its fluoride content, but it does act as a brush for removing dental plaque and polishing the teeth.

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / analysis
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control
  • Fluorides / analysis
  • Humans
  • Oral Hygiene
  • Phosphorus / analysis
  • Plants / chemistry
  • Toothbrushing / instrumentation*


  • Phosphorus
  • Fluorides
  • Calcium