A natural toothbrush is one in which the bristles — and sometimes the entire brush — are made from materials found in nature. This can include the twigs from certain trees, especially the Salvadora persica tree. In other cases, a toothbrush with bristles from natural sources, such as boar bristles or badger hair, might be considered natural. In many cases, no toothpaste is used with a natural toothbrush.
Historically, people from many cultures around the world used twigs from trees and bushes to clean their teeth. In the Middle East, the Salvadora persica tree, also called the arak or peelu tree, or even the "toothbrush tree," is commonly used for this purpose. According to Islamic tradition, the use of the miswak, which is the twig from this tree, is recommended before religious observances, before sleeping and at many other times.
The long twig is used after separating the bristles by slightly biting the end until softened, and then brushing. With benefits similar to those of the pomegranate tree, the arak tree has unique moist, biodegradable twigs that are stretched easily, naturally producing vitamin C, fluorine, potassium, calcium oxides and other beneficial minerals that sustain tooth enamel. Natural toothbrushes can be used for approximately six weeks. The natural toothbrush's form and moisture massages both the teeth and gums, and it helps whiten teeth naturally, removing discolorations that build over time.
Natural toothbrushes of this type generally are considered easy to use and to maintain. The outer bark is peeled back to expose the top layer of bristles, each layer of which should be removed after use. A fresh new layer of bristles is exposed each day. If this type of toothbrush dries out, it can be placed in water for approximately 10 minutes before using.
Less commonly, perhaps, a natural toothbrush also can refer to brushes that use boar bristles, badger hair or other animal bristles to clean the teeth. The first mass-produced toothbrushes were made with such natural bristles, although many improvements in quality have been made since then. Many users believe that natural bristles are more effective and healthier for the body, because the nylon and other synthetic fibers common in most standard toothbrushes are avoided. The plastics in most regular toothbrushes also rarely are recycled; natural toothbrushes made of wood and animal bristles might be considered to be more environmentally friendly, because they are made from renewable materials.