This tip is one of our favorites - we've been teaching it since day one, and been doing it ourselves literally all our lives. If you’ve ever been to any of our courses, there’s a strong chance we’ve demonstrated it for you. One of the most important, yet most neglected, aspects of wilderness living is personal hygiene. In our experience, most guys behave like unwashed heathens in the woods and won't shower, shave, or brush their teeth for weeks at a time if they don't have to, but that's a recipe for trouble. Neglecting hygiene opens you up to parasites, chafing, skin infections, and potential dental problems. We'll cover other aspects of hygeine another time, but today, we're talking about your teeth. Whether you're in a wilderness survival situation or simply forgot your toothbrush, dental hygiene is just as important as back home. Leaving your teeth unattended can lead to gum disease, cavities, and even abcessed teeth, none of which you want to deal with in the wild (think Tom Hanks in Castaway).
Back in the pioneer days, before store-bought toothbrushes could be had, folks relied on the Sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua, idenfiable by its unique star-shaped leaves and winged twigs) and campfire ash to clean their teeth. To make a toothbrush, cut a twig about four inches long and thinner than a pencil. Sharpen one end to use as a toothpick, score the other end with your knife to split it, and then chew it until it bristles. Just like that, you've got a toothbrush. The technique is a little different than a store-bought brush - you've got to brush one tooth at a time - but it really works. I’ll even make the argument that it works better – the stiff bristles do a great job of removing plaque that store bought brushes leave behind. Sweetgum even has antiseptic qualities that kill bacteria and leave your mouth feeling refreshed. For toothpaste, simply use ash or ground charcoal from your campfire. It tastes terrible and has a gritty texture, but it polishes off stains and whitens your teeth nicely. If you’ve ever seen old folks walking around with a stubby twig in their mouth, they probably weren’t just idly chewing on a stick… they were brushing their teeth. Have you ever used a sweetgum toothbrush? Tell us in the comments!
Want to learn this technique and many, many more in a hands-on environment? Come join us for Wilderness Survival CORE starting this Friday, June 14th. Read more and register here https://www.sarcraft.com/course-registration/wilderness-survival-core – see you there!