Taking Toothpaste to the Great Outdoors

This summer I was lucky enough to go on a high adventure trip with some of the older boys in my Boy Scout troop.

Amid water skiing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, and fishing – you better believe I took care of my teeth. Camping is no excuse for getting lazy with your oral hygiene!

But what I will admit is that many of us may be making things harder on ourselves than we need to when we camp. Toothpaste is one of those complications. So read on and you’ll find at least one way to simplify things for your next trip to the great outdoors.

Camping isn’t about being clean

Bring toothbrush campingSo maybe I’ll show myself as a true outdoorsman here, but let me just say, camping isn’t about being clean. Yes, you need to maintain your health but getting a little dirty and doing things differently is part of the fun.

There are ways of doing this without actually giving up on your healthy habits. My tip for this blog post is to leave the toothpaste at home.

But Dr. Wagner, are you sure?!?! How can I have clean teeth if I don’t bring my toothpaste?

(That’s what you were thinking, right?)

First let me make one thing clear. Toothpaste isn’t tooth soap. It is often compared to soap as we think about brushing in the sense of cleaning our teeth, but really, it isn’t like soap at all.

The cleaning occurs simply from the act of scraping toothbrush bristles across the surface of our teeth. Did you know that?

So why do we even use toothpaste? The main reason is just that it makes brushing quite pleasant. A nice smell. A nice taste. A nice feel.

And if it encourages you to brush, then I’m all for it. The little bit of fluoride and abrasion might benefit teeth slightly, but not much.

There are toothpastes for special purposes and those are definitely worthwhile if you are looking for results beyond getting rid of plaque. Whitening or minimizing sensitivity are a couple examples.

Oral hygiene while campingBut honestly, toothpaste is really more about comfort and freshness than anything hygienic. And the downsides when taking it camping far outweigh the benefit of fresh breath. (Warning: don’t ask your tent-mate about your morning breath. Trust me. Just don’t bring it up.)

Toothpaste Smells Good and Tastes Bad

Mint attracts a lot of animals and insects, so if you bring toothpaste with you, it should always be sealed in the tube and then ideally sealed in another bag. If you are brushing with a water bottle as your water source, be sure to keep the bottle clear of toothpaste residue so that it doesn’t attract unwanted guests either.

I think the one thing kids usually like about brushing their teeth is that they have an excuse to spit. Am I right?

Spitting out the toothpaste should also raise a red flag for you avid campers out there. Swallowing too much toothpaste can be very uncomfortable for your digestive system so it’ll be the same way for our fellow creatures.

If you spit it out onto the ground, for example, an animal could ingest it and get seriously sick. If you must use toothpaste and a running water supply isn’t available to dilute it, try to spray it all over so it doesn’t stay concentrated in one spot. (Have fun telling your kids about this tip and watch the chaos ensue.)

The last reason not to bring toothpaste is just that it takes up extra space in your camping bag. If the points above haven’t convinced you that you don’t need to bring it, then maybe saving space and lightening your load will.

Toothpaste dots for camping

No? I guess you really are a fan of it then. If that’s the case, my last tip is to make toothpaste dots. They cut down on space and weight. And they’re kinda fun.

~Dr. Wagner

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