Dry brushing teeth: brushing without water and toothpaste

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Have you ever heard of dry teeth brushing? It is exactly as you read it. So you do not put any water or toothpaste on your toothbrush bristles and simply brush your teeth with the dry toothbrush bristles. You might think how effective it will be to brush your teeth without toothpaste and a dry brush. Yes, we are used to using a wet brush and on top of that toothpaste. Well, based on some experimental studies dry brushing your teeth is in fact a pretty effective brushing method for tooth surfaces! 

If we have tickled your curiosity about the dry brushing teeth method then stay with us and keep reading, you will be delightfully surprised.

What is dry brushing teeth?

It is precisely what you are reading. It is the act of brushing your teeth but with a dry toothbrush. This means you do not wet your toothbrush beforehand or use toothpaste. The toothbrush filament stiffness is enough to remove the layer of plaque on your teeth. 

How to use a dry toothbrush

Dry brushing your teeth is the same as brushing your teeth as you would normally do. You do not need a prewetted toothbrush. Before you start, with a clean hand use your thumb and run it through the brush head to try to loosen your toothbrush bristles. Now you can follow these steps to dry brush your teeth.

Step 1: Use your manual toothbrush with soft bristles without using any water

Step 2: Place your dry toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums and teeth

Step 3: Start with a circular motion and clean your teeth 

Step 4: While cleaning try massaging your gum tissue as well

Step 5: Use your tongue to feel around your mouth to make sure you have rid your teeth of plaque 

After you are done with dry tooth brushing you can go with wet brushing preferably using fluoride toothpaste to clean your teeth.

Benefits of dry brushing teeth

Now you know how to dry brush teeth but are there any benefits to it? or is it just another trend that Gwyneth Paltrow has popularized? Based on some studies scientists have come to the conclusion that there are benefits to dry brushing indeed. 

Good riddance plaque

With regular brushing of your teeth with a dry toothbrush you will see less plaque buildup on your teeth. Some studies have shown a 48% to 50% reduction of plaque buildup in their participants. When you are doing it in the absence of toothpaste, there is no foam buildup in your mouth, so you can better understand which places on your teeth and chewing surfaces have any stains or plaque residue so you can clean them better. And this brings us to the next benefit.

Longer brushing sequence

The taste of toothpaste can give you the illusion of a clean and fresh mouth therefore your daily brushing time might be less than 2 minutes because of that. When you are able to see and feel how your teeth are after not using a prewetted toothbrush you can spend more time on areas that require a more thorough cleaning. And this can translate to a full 2-minute brushing exercise which is the optimum amount of time for you to spend cleaning your teeth. 

Gums anew 

 As we mentioned in the how-to dry brush teeth when you are done removing the plaque build-up, gently massage your gingival margin as well. This action of massaging the gum tissue helps with blood circulation and triggers the cells to regenerate. In the long run, you would see some gum regrowth. 

Actual pearly whites

Most people enjoy drinking a cup of coffee, tea, or even a glass of red wine. What do all of these drinks have in common? They all change the color of your teeth and stain them. Even with soft bristles the mechanical brushing motion could help remove those pesky stains and as a result, your teeth would look whiter as well.

What is the effect of dry brushing on teeth whitening?

So, as we mentioned above there are promising results when it comes to dry brushing your teeth and their color. Dry tooth brushing could help your teeth look whiter. But remember it does not have the same result as when you go for an in-office teeth whitening procedure.

No toothpaste no worries!

Imagine after a long journey you have gotten to your destination. You start to get ready for bed but you forgot your toothpaste! No need to panic! That is why you can dry brush your teeth. Of course, you will be missing out on the benefits of toothpaste but it is definitely better than not brushing your teeth. This does not have to just be when you are traveling it can be anywhere and that brings us to the next benefit.

Wherever you are

Near, far wherever you are, we believe that the dry brushing technique will work. Since you are not using any toothpaste or water then there is no need to rinse or spit anything. Whether you are in the bathroom or sitting in front of the TV you can easily be dry teeth brushing. So you can dry brush your teeth when you are feeling lazy. It is a win-win situation!

More convenient

Other than the place you brush or not needing toothpaste, dry brushing technique could make oral health more attainable for people with mobility problems and disabled people. This also means dry brushing method could be helpful to people with limited resources to maintain a good oral hygiene routine.

Blob of toothpaste

Some people with sensory issues or sensitivities might not like the texture of toothpaste. Sometimes the issue could be the taste of toothpaste. If you are one of those people or your kid is there is an easy solution. No need to worry about not brushing your teeth with toothpaste. Dry teeth brushing could be the answer to your dilemma. 

Risks of dry teeth brushing

There is not much evidence to say whether dry brushing your teeth is bad for you. At least not yet. For now, the benefits of dry brushing your teeth outnumber the disadvantages. But still, more studies need to be done to see if there are any downsides to brushing your teeth without toothpaste. 

The only risks that you would want to consider are overbrushing and too much pressure while brushing your teeth. Both of these are not specific to dry teeth brushing only. Whether you are brushing with a prewetted toothbrush or a dry one you run the risk of overbrushing or using too much pressure while dry brushing teeth.

How to avoid the risks of dry teeth brushing

 To avoid overbrushing and using unnecessary pressure while dry teeth brushing you can follow a few simple rules. The most important rule is to use the proper technique for brushing. Using the 45-degree angle and making sure you spend 2 minutes brushing your teeth. Next to avoid forcing too much pressure on your teeth and gums make sure to use soft toothbrushes. Also at the beginning of dry brushing the toothbrush filament stiffness is more so be careful not to scrub aggressively when you start dry brushing your teeth.

Who should dry brush their teeth?

The answer is anyone can dry brush their teeth. You can dry brush your teeth as part of your daily dental routine. Whether you follow it up with a prewetted toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste or not you are still benefitting from the effect of a toothbrush on plaque removal. 

Common questions about dry teeth brushing

So far in this article, we have tried to answer all the questions you might have had about dry brushing teeth. Here we have gathered some frequently asked questions about dry teeth brushing.

Can dry brushing damage teeth?

For now, the answer is no.

There is not much solid evidence that shows that this method can damage teeth. Only if you brush your teeth aggressively whether, with a prewetted toothbrush or a dry brush, do you run the risk of damaging your teeth.

How often should I dry brush my teeth?

Once every day would be enough to dry brush your teeth. And each time you use a dry toothbrush to clean your teeth make sure to do that for at least 2 minutes. To thoroughly remove plaque buildup from your teeth you can dry brush your teeth anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes

Should I use toothpaste when dry brushing my teeth?

No, it is right in the name. 

It is dry brushing and the whole reason for not using toothpaste is to be able to reach all the chewing areas without the interference of toothpaste lathering up. You can combine the two dental cleaning methods together if you want. First, dry brush and rinse with mouthwash, and then use your prewetted toothbrush with fluoridated toothpaste to brush your teeth.


-Ansari G, Torabzadeh H, Nabavi ZS, Hassani PS. Comparing the effect of dry and wet brushing on dental plaque removal in children. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2019 Jul-Sep;37(3):292-296. doi: 10.4103/JISPPD.JISPPD_71_19. PMID: 31584031.

-van der Sluijs E, Slot DE, Hennequin-Hoenderdos NL, van der Weijden GA. Dry brushing: Does it improve plaque removal? A secondary analysis. Int J Dent Hyg. 2018 Nov;16(4):519-526. doi: 10.1111/idh.12358. Epub 2018 Jul 25. PMID: 30047211.

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