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A Natural Replacement for Toothbrushes

Learning about Indian replacements for toothbrushes.

Photo of Urvashi

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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.

Credits -

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

Toothbrushes contribute a lot to global waste. One billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away every year in the United States, creating 50 million pounds of waste annually. Wouldn't it be better if we could use natural alternatives?

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

I think it was great to learn more about natural substitutes, and dip into the rural world of India.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Urvashi and I'm a student of 7th grade in India. My father told me about this neem alternative and that's why I decided to submit this idea.


Join the conversation:

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Urvashi!
There are 3 days left in the ideas phase of the circular design challenge! It would be great to see your ideas there, submit your idea via -

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Urvashi,

The ideas phase opens in 5 days time.

'The Competition is open to all individuals over the age of 18', according to the terms and conditions -

What I recommend is that either a parental guardian over the age of 18 submits on your behalf or you submit an idea and add someone you know over the age of 18 to your team and they will be able to see any comments on your post.

If you have any questions, my email address is

Photo of Sauyeng Dixon

Hi Urvashi Thanks for providing a very different view. I came across bamboo toothbrush here in Melbourne. They are fully natural and biodegradable which I think is a real option here in Melbourne.

Photo of Urvashi

I also looked at bamboo toothbrushes, and they seem good. But if you're buying them please make sure that the bristles are made of bamboo as well. A lot of brands use plastic bristles and claim to be ecofriendly. Good luck in Melbourne!

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Urvashi and thank you for contributing this post.

Have you taken a look at the challenge brief ( and use case document ( I think these may be helpful resources in expanding on your research to address a specific use case.

I also wanted to let you know we do have an OpenIDEO Chapter in Delhi, India ( They are a great resource for this and future challenges, as well as events!

Excited to hear more about your research!

Photo of Urvashi

Thanks Lauren,
I'll check out the links.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Urvashi,

It is great to see you in the challenge. Lauren Ito  I am interested in your perspective on this post.

Photo of Jocelyne

interesting contribution, that is the same case with my country Nigeria. Before tooth brushes and paste, natural products were used and it was healthy because there was minimal complaint about tooth ache and less use of plastics both as brush and paste packaging.

Photo of An Old Friend

given the growing health conscious population i think this a great idea for a natural toothbrush, could possibly look into use material from the stick into new toothbrushes

Photo of Natalia Pelaez

I think this is great, I want one for myself!