Can You Brush Without Toothpaste?

This blog post will address the question, “can you brush without toothpaste” and cover topics like the role of toothpaste in preventing plaque, what is in the toothpaste, why is toothpaste required, ways to brush and keep mouth fresh without toothpaste.

Can You Brush Without Toothpaste

Yes, you can brush without toothpaste. Toothbrush is essential for removing plaque and preventing tartar formation. Toothpaste is only added for a refreshing breath and for whitening.

Fluoride containing toothpaste, however, is essential for making your teeth stronger and plays a role in caries prevention.

So, if you miss out toothpaste for a few days due to any reason, do not make it an excuse to not brush your teeth. 

Make sure not to form a habit of brushing without toothpaste as fluoride in toothpaste is essential for stronger teeth and other components for preventing malodour and for aesthetics.

Toothpaste Role In Preventing Plaque

As far as plaque prevention is concerned, nothing is as best as toothbrushing, with or without toothpaste.

Tooth Brushing without toothpaste does not affect the effectiveness of toothbrushes in removing plaque accumulation from your teeth.

In fact, a clinical trial published in the Journal Of American Dental Association claimed that brushing without toothpaste can be as effective as brushing with toothpaste or even more effective.

The clinical trial reported plaque build-up to reduce by 63% and gum bleeding to decrease by 55%, in subjects brushing their teeth without toothpaste.

Ingredients In Toothpaste And Their Role

All toothpastes, more or less, have the same composition and few ingredients only differ when made for a specific purpose like whitening or anti-caries.

A toothpaste is a semi-solid material, a paste or gel dentifrice, most commonly used along with a toothbrush in a pea-size amount and contains the following as its major ingredients:

  • Removes the particles stuck on your teeth and brings out the natural color of the teeth without damaging the enamel.
  • Prevents accumulation of plaque and tartar formation.
  • Abrasive strength of toothpastes depends on the hardness, structure and concentration of the abrasive used.
  • Abrasives with hardness more than 3 on the moh scale must be avoided as it will damage the enamel.
  • Needle and rod-shaped abrasives are known to damage the teeth and gums and hence not preferred.
  • the pH of abrasives must range from being weakly acidic to weakly alkaline.
  • Radioactive Dentine Abrasion (RDA) value of the toothpaste must be 250 or less, otherwise, wearing away of enamel occurs, weakening the teeth and leading to tooth loss.
  • Some of the common abrasives used in the toothpaste are calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate dihydrate, aluminium hydroxide and silica.
  • Bind together the powder and liquid ingredients of the toothpaste and hence prevents toothpaste from drying.
  • Improves the viscoelasticity of the toothpaste, allowing it to smoothly flow out from the toothpaste tube.
  • Also affects the foaming and rinsing qualities of the toothpaste.
  • Sodium Carboxymethylcellulose is the most common binder used.
  • Sodium alginate, Carrageenan, xanthan gum, sodium polyacrylate are some other binders used in the toothpaste.
  • These are hygroscopic in nature, that means, it attracts water from air 
  • In toothpaste, humectants are responsible for maintaining the humidity and creamy texture.
  • Prevents the toothpaste from becoming hard.
  • Glycerol, Sorbitol, Propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol are some of the commonly used humectants in your toothpastes.
  • Solvents like water and alcohol dissolve the ingredients in the toothpaste and mouthwash respectively and allow their easy mixing.
  • Foaming agents act as a surfactant and allow the toothpaste to easily spread, infiltrate and dissolve plaque on the teeth.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, a surfactant with antimicrobial property, is most commonly used in your toothpastes.
  • These also play an important role in dispersing the aroma and freshness of the flavouring agents used in the toothpaste, giving you a breath of morning freshness.
  • Spearmint, peppermint, eucalyptus and menthol are commonly used flavouring agents used in the toothpaste.
  • Flavouring agents are crucial in giving your mouth a refreshing taste and makes you feel good every time you use them.
  • sodium saccharin, sorbitol, xylitol and glycerol are some of the most commonly used sweeteners in your toothpaste and mouthwash.
  • Xylitol is said to have anti-caries properties as well.
  • Not all toothpastes are white. Some are colorful and alluring.
  • The coloring agents like titanium dioxide are added to the mixture of ingredients.
  • sodium benzoate, methylparaben and ethylparaben are preservatives, used to extend the shelf-life of your toothpastes and mouthwash.
  • Preservatives prevent the microorganisms from developing inside the toothpaste and mouthwash and thus make them last longer.
  • Pharmaceutical therapeutic agents include anticaries, anti-dentine hypersensitivity, antiplaque, anti-apthous and whitening agents.


  • One of the most famous and frequently used caries inhibiting agents is fluoride.
  • Fluorides in toothpastes are used in many forms 
  • Most common forms used are Sodium Fluoride followed by mono-fluoro-phosphate and stannous fluoride.
  • 0.10% to 0.15% Fluoride Concentration is most common for toothpastes
  • Fluoride toothpaste is more effective and beneficial when left for a few minutes after toothbrushing, before rinsing them off.
  • Fluoride acts on the enamel by forming fluorapatite, which is more resistant to acids produced by plaque and hence protects teeth from decay.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate in the toothpaste is considered to be an effective plaque remover.
  • Abrasives serve as whitening agents in the toothpaste.

What Is The Purpose Of Using Toothpaste?

Some of the studies have reported tooth brushing without toothpaste to be more effective than brushing with toothpaste. This might intrigue you and you may question the purpose of using toothpaste. 

Well, pea-sized toothpaste on your toothbrush may serve a lot of purpose:

Fresh Breath

Toothpastes contain flavouring agents like peppermint, eucalyptus and menthol.

Flavouring agents are crucial in giving your mouth a refreshing breath and makes you feel good every time you use them.

Malodour Buster

Food particle remnants in your mouth may cause bad breath if left undisturbed and not cleaned.

Flavouring agents in the toothpaste make your breath fresh and helps bust the malodour. 

Sweeteners improve the taste of your mouth and make you feel good every time you use them.

Whiter Teeth

Abrasives in the toothpaste act as a whitening agent by removing the surface debris and yellow extrinsic stains caused by foods and drinks.

Stronger and Caries Free Teeth

Toothpastes contain fluoride that acts as an anti-caries agent. 

Fluoride acts on the enamel by forming fluorapatite, which is more resistant to acids produced by plaque and hence protects teeth from decay.


According to a study published in the Journal Of Clinical Periodontology, toothpastes containing potassium nitrate, sodium fluoride and stannous fluoride are effective in reducing the sensitivity caused by dentin exposure.

Brushing Your Teeth Without Toothpaste: Hacks To Follow

Use Mouthwash

Toothbrush without toothpaste does not look complete. However, if you ever forget your toothpaste, mouthwash can be effective in scraping off the plaque.

You just need to immerse the toothbrush in the mouthwash, take it out and start brushing as normal. 

As most of the ingredients in the mouthwash are similar to that in a toothpaste, using them to brush wouldn’t be less effective in any way.

Use Water

Water is a natural solvent used in almost all toothpastes. Wet toothbrushes can prove effective in removing the sticky plaque layer from the teeth surface.

Use Saltwater solution

If toothpaste is not available and you are being impatient to brush your fuzzy-feeling teeth, use saltwater solution to brush your teeth.

Yes. You heard us right. One teaspoon of salt mixed with lukewarm water forms the required solution. 

Immerse your toothbrush in the saltwater solution and start brushing. The natural abrasiveness of the salt helps you remove the plaque and also removes the temporary yellow stain from foods and drinks, giving your teeth a whiter look.

Make sure you don’t brush vigorously with saltwater solution as the salt being highly abrasive may erode your enamel away, exposing the dentin and leaving you with sensitive teeth.

Oil Pulling

In India, Oil pulling has been practiced traditionally since ages to improve oral hygiene and remove toxins from the body.

The practice of oil pulling involves swishing oil, sunflower or coconut oil, around in your mouth, keeping it for a few minutes and then spitting it out.

Yes it is traditional and now backed by several scientific studies.

A study concluded oil pulling using coconut oil to be an effective procedure in decreasing plaque formation and plaque induced gingivitis.

Similarly other studies have also found oil pulling to be an effective and safe procedure to reduce plaque accumulation.

As oil pulling controls plaque buildup, it helps to get rid of yellow teeth and give you a safe, bright smile.

Baking Soda And Peroxide Paste

Homemade toothpaste containing 1 tablespoon baking soda mixed with 2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide, helps to reduce yellowing of the teeth.

A study reported toothpaste containing baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to be effective in reducing tooth staining and improving whiteness.

How To Get Rid Of Bad Breath Without Toothpaste

Toothbrush without toothpaste can be effective in removing plaque buildup and prevent tartar formation but when it comes to removing bad breath, you definitely miss your toothpaste!

Well, with the given tips you can manage your bad breath effectively:

Chewing Mint Gum

Chewing mint gums activates saliva production that flushes plaque accumulation and also disperses the flavours in it for refreshing breath.

Hence, you may benefit with both fresh taste and breath and reduced plaque accumulation by using these chewing mint gums.

Cool Water As Mouthwash

With the lack of toothpaste, fresh breath is difficult to achieve but not impossible. 

Use cool water as mouthwash and rinse your teeth with it to remove any food debris, plaque accumulation and bad breath.

Eat Fruits, Vegetables & Fresh Herbs

Fruits and vegetables like apples, strawberries, citrus fruits and spinach have crunchiness and natural detergent properties in them that activates saliva production and helps flush off the malodour causing plaque and food remnants.

Herbs like mint and basil are crucial in giving a good taste to your mouth.

Clean Your Tongue

Bad breath is most commonly related to poor tongue cleaning and hence you must not ignore cleaning your tongue with the back of your toothbrush or a tongue scraper.

Cleaning your tongue removes bacterial coating from it and helps you achieve refreshing breath.


This blog post addressed the question, “can you brush without toothpaste”. We understood the role of toothpaste in preventing plaque, the ingredients in the toothpaste and why toothpaste is required. The article outlined some effective ways to brush and get rid of bad breath without toothpaste.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs): Can You Brush Without Toothpaste

Can I brush my teeth with my finger?

Yes, you can brush your teeth with your fingers. 

Fingers have a rough surface and very gently removes the sticky, soft plaque film and gives you a healthy, clean and odourless mouth.

After every meal, you can brush your teeth with your fingers and clean them without any risk of abrading the enamel.

How long can you go without brushing your teeth?

It depends on your oral and overall disease and infection fighting capabilities.

Some people may not brush their teeth for years and still manage to escape the cavities, caries and tooth loss. 

On the other hand, some may develop cavities and gum irritation even after a few days or weeks of not brushing their teeth.

It is found that not brushing your teeth regularly may lead to dental caries, gingivitis and periodontal diseases.

What happens when you don’t brush your teeth regularly?

Not brushing your teeth regularly can cause tooth loss and plaque and tartar buildup increases the risk of gingival and periodontal diseases multifold.

Why are my teeth yellowish?

Your teeth are yellowish because the teeth are actually not perfectly white in their natural state and moreover gets darker as they age.

Dentin layer is responsible for off-white appearance of your teeth as enamel, the outermost layer is transparent.

Moreover, toothbrushing is not for whitening your teeth. Toothbrushing is essential to remove plaque and food debris and maintain good oral and dental hygiene. 

Can your teeth become white again by brushing?

Brushing can help reduce the yellowish discoloration or stain on your teeth by removing the plaque that builds up and leads to yellowish stain.

However, if the yellowing of teeth is due to any intrinsic cause then you may require bleaching or tooth whitening treatments.

It is always better to consult your dentist or dental hygienist for the same.

You must also give up on coffee and tea and drinks and food that cause staining and give up smoking or any form of tobacco.

Other FAQs about Teeth brushing that you may be interested in.

Disadvantages of brushing teeth twice a day

Brushing teeth 5 times a day

Can not brushing teeth cause a sore throat?


  1. Is Toothpaste Necessary? (2021)
  1. Hacks: Forgot Your Toothpaste, Now What? Colgate
  1. How to Brush Your Teeth Without a Toothbrush or Toothpaste. (2016)
  1. Vranić, Edina et al. “Formulation ingredients for toothpastes and mouthwashes.” Bosnian journal of basic medical sciences vol. 4,4 (2004): 51-8. doi:10.17305/bjbms.2004.3362
  1. Jensen, O., Gabre, P., Sköld, U.M. and Birkhed, D. (2012), Is the use of fluoride toothpaste optimal? Knowledge, attitudes and behaviour concerning fluoride toothpaste and toothbrushing in different age groups in Sweden. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 40: 175-184.
  1. Sowinski J, Ayad F, Petrone M, et al. Comparative investigations of the desensitising efficacy of a new dentifrice. J Clin Periodontol. 2001;28(11):1032-1036. doi:10.1034/j.1600-051x.2001.281107.x

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!