While eco-friendly toothbrushes are great, there is a more primordial alternative: Neem chew sticks (datun).

A teeth cleaning twig (or datun in Sanskrit) is a tool made from a twig from a tree that helps to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Chew sticks have been found in Babylonian and Egyptian tombs. It is the primordial way of cleaning teeth that does not require any toothpaste, because the twig itself is releasing phytochemical compounds.

Teeth cleaning twigs can be obtained from a variety of tree species that have a high content of tannins (astringent and antibacterial) or other compounds that benefit gums health. Teeth cleaning twigs are made from trees such Tea tree, Licorice, Acacia catechu and Neem.

Neem is usually the preferred one, due to its exceptional antiseptic qualities. Every part of this tree is used and has antiseptic qualities. Oils prepared from the leaves and seeds are used to treat skin diseases such as eczema, ringworm and scabies, and even leprosy.

There are more than 130 active compounds present in the neem tree. Neem contains anti-carcinogenic, anti-bacterial, antiseptic, antimalarial, anti-viral and antioxidant properties.

Dandruff is cured by using water with Neem leaves or Neem powder as rinse. The tender twig of the tree is used as toothbrush to clean the teeth. Its leaves, fruits and the bark are used to treat fevers, sore throats, earache, mouth ulcers, gingivitis, cholera, intestinal worms and lice.

Chewing Neem sticks also whitens the teeth naturally. As Neem contains anti-microbial properties, chewing the twig can prevent plaque formation. The bitter taste of the Neem also fights bad breath.

Most toothpastes contain triclosan and other dangerous chemicals that can cause our teeth to stop remineralisation. Whereas Neem datun initiates remineralisation (repairing of tooth by our hormones through a natural process).

How to use

These small twigs are obtained from the branches of Neem trees and are cut into small sizes of about 15 to 20 cm. The thin and flexible twigs are used.

The outer bark is removed off so that the twig is not harsh on the gums and teeth, and only a gentle layer of thin skin remains.

You need to chew on this twig, every morning and evening. As the fibers separate after chewing, the twig forms a brush at the end and you can start brushing your teeth with is as well.

Put one stick in your mouth and nibble off the bark with your teeth. Then, you chew on the inside fibers until they separate like bristles. The sticks are hard, and this process takes a while. After about 10 minutes, you have something you can actually brush with.

During the process, the chewed corners work like the bristles of a brush. They clean the corners of the teeth.

The process of chewing it is important, as it releases the medicinal agents present in the neem twig. The saliva that gets secreted after the neem twig comes into contact with your tongue contains antibacterial agents that kill harmful microbes in your mouth. This practice also reduces inflammation. Spit the saliva.

Before brushing your teeth with the twig, you can also apply a mix of salt and mustard oil. The combination of salt and mustard oil is said to strengthen teeth and gums.

Where to buy

Neem Tree Farms datun are grown in North America and are shipped fresh from the farm the day they are harvested.

Brush with Bamboo also provides Neem chew sticks.

Amazon of course carries them also.

The best of course would be to plant a Neem tree around your house, that would give you a lifetime supply of twigs.