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Hacks: Forgot Your Toothpaste, Now What?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Oh no! Your teeth desperately need a good brushing, but there's no toothpaste to be found. How do you brush your teeth without toothpaste? Whether you're traveling, just ate an extra-sugary snack, or are suffering from bad breath, here are some hacks for cleaning your teeth and freshening your breath without toothpaste.

How to Clean Your Teeth Without Toothpaste

  1. Hack #1: Ask Around
  2. It never hurts to ask! Most hotels offer complimentary toothpaste, so head down to the front desk and see if they can help. Your coworker two desks over might also surprise you by pulling a tube out of his desk drawer. And who knows what goodies are hiding in your best friend's purse.

  3. Hack #2: Brush With Mouthwash
  4. Yes, you read that correctly. Unfortunately, swishing mouthwash isn’t enough to remove stubborn plaque from your teeth. So, skip the swish and give your toothbrush a dunk into your mouthwash until the bristles are completely covered. Then, gently brush away any lingering plaque. Bonus? You’ll still walk away with minty fresh breath.

  5. Hack #3: Brush With Water
  6. Even if you're fresh out of toothpaste and mouthwash, the simple act of brushing your teeth can have lots of benefits. Brushing with a wet toothbrush will still remove food particles and plaque from your teeth. The downside? Brushing with water won’t help freshen your breath.

  7. Hack #4: Brush With Sea Salt
  8. Sea salt is naturally antibacterial, and some of its nutrients can neutralize acids in your mouth and soothe swollen gums. Other bonuses? Salt stimulates saliva production, which naturally washes out bacteria. Mix a half teaspoon of sea salt into warm water and combine. Dip your toothbrush into the saltwater solution and brush as usual. The natural grittiness of the salt can be effective in removing surface stains but be sure to brush gently because it can also wear away your tooth enamel if you brush too hard.

  9. Hack #5: Keep Mini Toothbrushes Around

If you're frequently looking for a cleaner mouth, it might help to keep those handy, pocket-sized toothbrushes around. These tiny toothbrushes don't require water or toothpaste but come with a toothpaste gel in the center so you can use it and toss it. Add a package of mini brushes to your bag or car, so you're ready when that need to clean hits.

Tips for Freshening Your Breath Without Toothpaste

Sometimes you can wait for a proper cleaning but are still looking for fresher breath on the go. If you left your brushing supplies at home, try these simple tips for fighting bad breath without toothpaste.

  1. Tip #1: Chew Sugar-Free Gum or Mints
  2. Stock your pockets, purse, or car with sugar-free gum or mints. Both will freshen your breath quickly. Plus, chewing gum and sucking on candy promotes saliva production, which helps eliminate bad-breath-inducing food particles and bacteria from your tongue and teeth.

  3. Tip #2: Drink More Water
  4. Staying hydrated is essential for keeping your breath smelling fresh since a dry mouth can make any odors worse. For a quick refresh, swish cool water around your mouth to help wash away bacteria and any odors.

  5. Tip #3: Munch on Crunchy Fruits & Vegetables
  6. Not only do crunchy fruits and vegetables help rid your teeth of odor-causing food particles, but some varieties also include natural detergent properties that can help neutralize any foul smells. Apples, strawberries, citrus fruits, spinach, kale, and other green leafy vegetables are all great for helping create fresher breath.

  7. Tip #4: Nibble on Fresh Herbs
  8. Herbs like parsley, basil, and mint are more than just a garnish for your plate. When you're out to dinner, and your meal comes with a green sprig or two, you're in luck. By simply chewing one of these herbs, your breath will be fresher in seconds.

  9. Tip #5: Sip on Green Tea

Green tea contains polyphenols, an antioxidant that helps fight bacteria growth and reduce sulfur compounds. However, sip carefully since tea is also known to stain teeth. If you're not a fan of green tea, you can always try taking it as a supplement instead.

These hacks and tips might be lifesavers when you're in need, but they should not replace your regular oral care routine — which should include toothpaste. Let these strategies keep your teeth as clean and your breath as fresh as possible until you can get back to your toothpaste and can give your teeth the attention and care they deserve.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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