Looking To Cut Weight? Don't Skip Dental Care!

Posted on: 9 January 2015


With the trend of ultralight backpackers looking to cut mere ounces out of the weight of their pack, you may be tempted to forgo important medical supplies in your first aid kit or skip your oral hygiene products altogether. However dedicated to your sport you are, you don't want to risk your dental health to save a fraction of an ounce in your pack. Here are the top ways ultralight backpackers deal with dental care while they are out.  

Skip the Brushing Altogether 

Cavities take quite some time to form, and once the process of decay begins, it is possible to reverse a cavity through remineralization. Some dedicated hikers take this to mean that they can safely spend a week not brushing, especially since they are avoiding carbohydrates and sugary drinks while they are hiking. 

While skipping oral care might be okay for a single hike, most ultralight backpackers do several hikes a year. All of that time spent not brushing can add up, and your body may not be able to keep up with the process of decay. It is better to avoid falling into a pattern of neglect. 

Reducing the Size of Your Toothbrush 

From using children's toothbrushes to sawing off the handle of adult brushes, some hikers will do anything to reduce weight. While these techniques are better than skipping the toothbrush altogether, it is important to realize that adult brushes have different bristles than children's brushes, which are better for your teeth and gums. Also, shortening your toothbrush too much can make it difficult to use proper technique and reach the back of your mouth. 

If you need to take some weight out of your toothbrush, try drilling holes in along the handle. This will reduce weight without compromising function. 

Skipping Toothpaste 

Depending on the health of your gums, the mechanical action of brushing with a bit of water may be enough for short trips. However, many people need to use toothpaste on a daily basis or twice a day, as recommended by most dentists. To cut down on weight, consider travel tubes of toothpaste or tooth powder that is sold in many hiking stores. 

You can also use a dab of coconut oil instead of toothpaste. It is naturally antibacterial and can be used as lotion for dry skin or lip balm as well as toothpaste. Since it is solid at cooler temperatures, it is possible to put a chunk in a plastic baggie and keep it towards the outside of your pack. 

Repackaging Floss 

It is important to not skip flossing when you are out for a few days. However, you do not need to carry an entire full-sized container of floss. Many ultralight campers simply wind the necessary amount of floss around their toothbrush and then use their knife to cut off as much as they need each day. 

If you choose to do this, make sure to wrap your floss at the opposite end of the bristles. If you wrap by the bristles you may get saliva on your floss and bacteria could end up growing on it throughout the week. 

Besides brushing and flossing, the most important thing you can do for your teeth while camping is to rinse with a swig of water anytime you eat. Because hikers snack throughout the day, this is an important way to remove food debris and prevent buildup. It will also help you remain hydrated while you are hiking. 

As you discover the joy and friendly competition involved in ultralight backpacking there will be times when you are tempted to forgo your dental care for an ounce. However, following this advice will let you stay light without risking your longterm dental health. 

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