It’s been a cultural phenomenon for over 20 seasons and spawned a number of similarly styled shows: Survivor.
People are dropped off in the wild with only the clothes on their back and nary a toothbrush in sight! Despite this, all these folk seem to have shiny, beautiful white teeth! How is that possible? Pan back for the long shot and the camera occasionally shows tribe members scraping away at their teeth with sticks. Sticks!!!???
Can you really use a stick to clean your teeth and if so, will it cause harm to your teeth and enamel? If you were ever curious about whether this is a possibility vs. a “made for TV reality moment” then read on!
It goes without saying that a dentist would certainly never recommend scraping your teeth with sticks but at its core (and we’ve talked about toothbrushes before) a toothbrush does perform a similar function. It brushes away at the surface of the tooth removing food and debris and helping to prevent the build up of plaque and bacteria. In the absence of a toothbrush – perhaps a stick really is the next best thing.
Chewing sticks have actually been in use for centuries. Traditional peoples from around the globe have utilized indigenous plants and trees to fashion natural tooth brushes. Understanding the environment around them, ancient peoples used twigs that contained natural healing properties, often from such trees as the Eucalyptus, Oak, Fir or Juniper. In parts of Africa, chew sticks are made from the “salvadora persica” tree which is actually otherwise known as the “toothbrush tree.” (1) Wikipedia. When these twigs/sticks are used properly, with care and caution, the chewing stick has actually been shown in some research studies to outrank the toothbrush in terms of its effectiveness! Certainly they are an easy and disposable alternative under certain conditions where access to safe, clean, drinking water and/or where more “modern” approaches to tooth care are unavailable.
Bottom line is this – sometimes reality TV actually contains a healthy dose of reality! Survivor contestants really do “brush” their teeth with sticks and while they may have had their teeth whitened before the show to help maintain that health glow, the chewing stick really helps too. My guess is the fact they don’t get much food to eat also helps….but that’s a story for another day!