A strong, arid wind blows stale sand across the wasteland you once knew as Greensburg. The heat is unbearable and the sweat clings to your dry, flaking skin like droplets of cool ice. Where Twin Lakes Park once sprawled now exists nothing but desert and the broken stumps of once proud trees. This is your new life; this is the apocalypse. You know how to hunt, you know what mushrooms to eat and which ones to skip, but are you prepared to take care of your teeth?
“If the apocalypse was to happen, why should I care about my teeth?” you’re asking yourself.
Oh, how wrong you are, my friend.
Allow me to sprinkle some wisdom. First, your teeth allow you to chew. Why is this important? Well, you’ll need to eat in the apocalypse. Nope, that need never goes away.
But it’s not just about being able to eat certain foods, it’s also about grinding everything you eat down so that you can digest it and your stomach can process it. If you’d like to avoid things like gastroesophageal reflux disease, heartburn, and a higher risk of malnutrition, you’ll want your teeth. The apocalypse already sucks, so why make it worse?
Second, your teeth matter for your overall health. You’re already worrying about shelter, food, warmth (at night — desert wastelands get cold after the sun goes down). Are you sure you want to add gum disease, bacterial infection, tooth pain, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and anxiety to your list? I didn’t think so.
Third, this is the apocalypse. You are lucky to survive because most of everyone else probably did not. It’s on you to carry the human species forward. And I think we are all aware how a stunning smile (and a lack of halitosis) can charm the socks off anyone. This is especially true in the post-apocalypse, where — let’s be real — charming smiles are probably a pretty rare treat.
“Okay, okay, I get it, taking care of your teeth matters no matter the status of civilization. Get to the point,” you’re saying.
Fair enough. How do we take care of your oral well-being in a world without running water and toothpaste manufacturers?
Post-apocalyptic dental care tips, comprehensive-style
I’ve seen some of the so-called post-apocalyptic dental guides floating on the internet: wow, can they be terrible. One of them talks about web-based dental software. Right, because there’ll be internet after the apocalypse. (That was sarcasm, just in case you didn’t catch it.) I read another one on using latex gloves…I guess they’ll just pop out of thin air for you or something, because otherwise I don’t know where you’re going to find any of those after the first round of grocery store raids.
Let me give you some advice of actual value:
Avoiding oral diseases in the wasteland
I’m not talking about maintaining your figure here. You’ll be doing plenty of walking (and probably running) in the post-apocalypse, so I’m sure as far as fitness goes, you’ll be on point.
Carbs are oral bacteria’s favorite food, so the more carbs you eat, the higher the likelihood of running up against gum disease, tooth decay, and other dental infections. It might not seem like that big of a deal nowadays, because you can just hit your dentist up and get it resolved. But…I don’t know if there’ll be any dentists around after the apocalypse, and even if there are I doubt you’ll want to get treated by them. Who knows where that scalpel has been!?
Staying away from bread and the like is easy enough, but it’s not just wheat-based food that you have to worry about. It turns out our paleolithic friends — the ones we’ll join as soon as the nukes start to launch — also got tooth decay from things like acorns, because they’re sweet and they carry a lot of sugar (carbs).
The moral of the story is to know your foods! It’s not just about what’s poisonous and what isn’t (although this is a priority, since you’ll need to know this if you plan to survive out there), it’s also about what can cause health problems that can shorten your lifespan. Remember, you’re already working uphill in this scenario, so don’t make things harder than they need to be.
Right, but where do I find my wasteland toothpaste?
Luckily, we’ve had many, many long years of evolution in the world of natural toothpaste ideas, so if you’re savvy, you can avoid some of the worst options from the get go. The Romans tried stuff like ground ox hoof powder and burnt eggshells with pumice. The ancient Egyptians tried a mixture of black soot and gum arabic, which when mixed with water supposedly got them “perfect teeth,” according to one Egyptian scribe. You can take your chances if you’d like, but let me recommend you a recipe just in case you want to go with something sure and tested.
There are certain items you’ll find in the wild which are natural antibiotics. These will help you stave off dental infections and the pain, and loss, that comes from not being able to treat them. These plants include garlic, cayenne pepper, purple coneflower (the root, specifically — chop it and a dry it, then make a powder, and it could be a lifesaver no matter where your infection is), and ginger. Plus, most of these things are easy to grow yourself, so once you wander around enough to find a permanent place of residence I recommend you start a little garden of your own to keep your post-apocalyptic medicine cabinet fully stocked.
What about making actual toothpaste? Most of the recipes you’ll find on the internet include ingredients you’ll probably have a hard time finding — you know, since our economy as we know it will basically cease to exist —, so if you feel adventurous here’s one recipe you’ll be able to cook up in the woods:
Okay, what about a toothbrush? Where do you expect me to find one of those?
You might not like the answer, but you’re in the post-apocalypse, so good luck finding another option.
According to OutdoorLife, your prime choice is to find a twig that’s fallen from a non-toxic tree. Great, so now some trees are toxic. Yup, survival after the apocalypse is tough. But you’re a soldier and you’ve survived this far, so you might as well go all the way. Here’s a guide to nonpoisonous trees, take notes (nuclear-fire-resistant notes).
Once you have a twig that won’t kill you, cut it to about the size of your average toothbrush. That’s about 7 or 8 inches, just in case you forget what one looks like in between the stress of running from raiders and large, angry cats with fangs. Mash one end with a rock, and once you’ve broken it down a bit start to chew on it until it gets sinewy like the bristles of a toothbrush. Voila!
Just spread your natural toothpaste over that sucker and you’re set.
Don’t forget about your tongue
This might freak you out, but your tongue is a cesspool of bacteria. Don’t freak out! As of today, you’re still living in civilization. You use fluoridated toothpaste and you see your dentist regularly (right?), so you’re good. We’re talking post-apocalypse. There’s nothing complicated here. Take that twig and that grounded soot toothpaste, and scrub that tongue like you would a potty-mouthed child’s.
What if I have a hot date?
Maybe you’ve met the guy or woman of your post-apocalyptic dreams and you want to bring them back to your cave (don’t get offended — it’s a really nice cave), how do you make sure your breath is on point?
If you live by some natural-growing mint, one simple option is to chew those leaves all day. Maybe make them part of the dinner you’re cooking up, which is actually a great idea — other survivors may not be up-to-date on the latest post-apocalyptic dental trends, so play it safe before you go in for the kiss.
If you don’t have mint leaves, you can try a lemon wedge sprinkled with salt. Or, any naturally-growing spices that may grow around your part of the woods, like clove, cardamom, and fennel. Plus, if you’ve been brushing your teeth, you’ll already on a good start, so keep up the excellent work!
Wow, you really expected me to read all of this? Fine! Here’s a summary:
“Dental health? Man, this is the apocalypse! It’s all about survival!” says that guy who sits at the back of the class. Except you need your teeth to survive. So yeah, you’ll want to take care of your oral health even as you’re dodging predators and struggling to make ends meet in this terrible, terrible world of nuclear radiation, zombies, and intolerable heat.
To the point, what did we go over? I taught you what to eat and what not to eat, how to make toothpaste, how to make a toothbrush, and how to keep your breath so minty fresh you’re making the world a better place just by breathing.
“I’ll keep these things in mind for when the apocalypse happens…never. Idiot.”
Yeah, whatever. You’ll thank me later.