OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

The Neem Toothbrush

Replacing plastic in toothbrushes

Photo of Urvashi
3 3

Written by

Before toothbrushes were introduced in India, neem twigs were used to cleanse people's teeth. The neem twigs were chewed at the end and since it is beneficial for the teeth and gums, it also maintained health. It reduced bad breath and was easy to use.

Some even rub the sea salt in their teeth to make it white. Other use coconut oil as it has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties come in handy for mouth cleaning. Lemon juice and baking powder were also natural substitutes used in India. People from rural areas still use these natural, biodegradable toothbrushes instead of plastic ones which live on forever.

After realising that neem could be hard to use for some people, the decision was made to simplify the product. The neem twigs would be chopped into small bits to increase the potential usage of a single twig. 

(A) - the part where one inserts the neem twig

(B) - chopped bit of a Neem twig/branch/stick ranging from about 5-7 centimetres.

(C) - conically shaped inside to assist in usage of different-sized Neem twigs.


  1. Insert the pre-cut Neem part into the top of your brush-handle. 
  2. Chew the Neem and then afterwards begin to brush with it.
  3. Dispose of the Neem part once you've finished brushing. Since it is natural, it will not cause any sustainability issues.

Credits -

Idea Title


Where are you / your team located?

Gurgaon, Haryana, India.

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

By reducing plastic toothbrush usage, the Neembrush prevents a lot of plastic waste from being created.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

My idea does not exactly relate to the Use Cases, but toothbrushes are huge contributors to plastic waste and I believe this idea stands a chance to reduce plastic waste.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

India first, since neem is available in abundance here. Maybe we could consider shipping and exporting to other countries later.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

I think it will help build on a simple idea and turn it into a reality. Working with the Think Beyond Plastic Accelerator Program would make my product better and have more of an impact.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

My father used to talk about the usage of Neem in India, before toothbrush brands entered India's markets. Once this idea struck, my father and I brainstormed and came up with the Neembrush.

Tell us about your work experience

My father works as a Product Designer and helped me with this idea. I, however, am only a student. But I want to reach people and reduce plastic, and I feel that this is a great way to do so.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Michael MK

Hi Urvashi,
Amazing story about Neem. Is this plant used for any other purposes?

Photo of Urvashi

Hi Michael,
Neem is a natural antiseptic and is used all over India. It grows in abundance here. It can be used to keep away mosquitoes. Neem tea is great for the immune system. Its main purpose is medicine. Neem cures so many things I can't even list it out here! It's great for your skin and hair, and has many medicinal properties to keep them clean. It is also used in oil! It's extracts are used in branded products like facewashes and soaps. As you can tell, Neem is an amazing and powerful herb. Here is a link I found which lists out Neem's many wondrous uses.

The EcoClub United

Photo of Michael MK

Hi Urvashi,
Thanks so much this is helpful. I will continue to learn more about it..