A Prepper’s Guide to SHTF Dental Care

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By Blackbird

Imagine, the S has hit the fan. Several years have passed and have made for trying times. You’ve managed to survive a famine, and defended yourself and your family from vicious groups of people that have threatened you. You’ve learned a variety of practical skills that make you indispensable to not only your group, but to your family. You’ve survived many difficult scenarios, earning a tough-as-nails reputation, only to be taken out by…dental problems…

While it seems like an unlikely way to die, it’s certainly possible both now, and especially in times of hardship that restrict your access to a dentist, it becomes all the more likely to occur. Economic ruin, inflation, sudden loss of incomes, pandemics, and even skyrocketing crime rates can hinder your access to dental professionals, which can put your health in jeopardy. SHTF can hinder garbage cleanup and overall sanitation in towns and cities, making good hygiene habits more important than ever before. As a disclaimer, the article I’ve written is in no way a replacement for a trip to the dentist, nor is it to be considered professional medical treatment. I am not a doctor nor a dentist. I’ll be the first one always to encourage you to seek out a good dentist, to get routine dental checkups and cleanings to maintain good dental health. This article is based on my own personal experiences, as well as my family’s experiences of maintaining good dental health when we weren’t able to go to the dentist for years due to loss of income during a severe economic recession.

Dental infections can be deadly.

Many folks are prepared for common emergencies, such as fires or defending their homes from burglars. From what I’ve noticed, however, is the lack of discussion surrounding dental emergencies. This is unfortunate, because this is a threat that can occur at the most unexpected of times and can happen to anyone. Whether you’re living in an all out SHTF or are suffering from your own personal financial disaster, it can strike you or your family without a moment’s notice.  

I’ll admit, if you’re living during a SHTF with a hungry stomach and bullets flying at you, the last thing you’re going to be thinking about is “Did I brush my teeth today?” 

Nevertheless, dental care is akin to health care. It shouldn’t be brushed off, just as maintaining physical fitness shouldn’t be scoffed at either. You’ll need it at a later time. This isn’t as exciting as talking about self-defense or how to survive an angry mob, but it’s still just as important. Dental problems don’t just stop with a bad toothache, they can contribute to other problems with your overall health as well. A number of credible studies have shown a direct correlation between poor dental health and other diseases such as chronic inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, weakened immune system, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and heart disease, greatly increasing your likelihood of developing at least one of them. So it’s not going to pay to eat healthy and exercise unless you’re taking care of your mouth as well. A buildup of bad bacteria can contribute to poor health. Poor health can not only make you feel sick and ache constantly, but it’ll hinder your quality of life and your chances of survival. Tooth infections can kill you in a matter of weeks if left untreated. 

My own family knew this, but due to a recession, combined with job losses and difficulty finding new jobs at the time, we couldn’t go to the dentist for years while we lived off-grid. So how did we make it for all of those years without professional care available and on a very limited budget? Without losing all our teeth or experiencing tooth and gum pain? Prevention.  

Prevention is the best method.

If you are able to, I highly recommend going to the dentist on a routine basis. Your dentist will be able to help you prevent a majority of dental problems from becoming worse or affecting other areas of the body. He or she will be able to nip problems in the bud before they become exacerbated, or worse yet, develop into a full-blown emergency situation. If SHTF occurs suddenly, you wouldn’t want to enter it with the additional stress of painful tooth and gum problems. Because at that point, who knows when you’ll be able to see a dentist again. It could be years, or even a decade. So be sure to make regular appointments while times are still good to maintain your dental health. 

When I was a small child, my family stressed the importance of taking care of my teeth properly to avoid future pain and decay. During our own personal financial disaster, they insisted that instead of just twice a day, I should clean my teeth and mouth after every meal, and very thoroughly too. To us, dental care was just as important as washing our hands and keeping clean. We had abided by routines to prevent these problems so that we didn’t have unnecessary dental expenses and costly bills. Sometimes we had to get creative and make our own toothpaste when money was really tight. I remember my grandmother would use baking soda with water to form a paste to clean her teeth. It worked for her, and it worked for us too. This is also an alternative to those who choose to omit fluoride from their routine. 

Homemade toothpaste

Here is a homemade toothpaste recipe: 

  • 1/3 cup of coconut oil (contains antimicrobial properties) 
  • Three tablespoons of baking soda
  • (Optional) you can add a few drops of peppermint or spearmint essential oil

Stir this mixture together and store it in a container at room temperature. This makes a cheap, natural and effective anti plaque and whitening toothpaste. A cheap jar of coconut oil bought on sale and a box of baking soda can last for quite awhile. The baking soda will eradicate any plaque that tries to cling to your teeth. This will also brighten your tooth enamel to a natural white color. 

Make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, for approximately three minutes each time can help minimize tooth decay of course. You can opt to brush after each meal. You should wait at least thirty minutes to an hour after your meal to brush your teeth, or you could risk slowly eroding some of your enamel away. I suggest two types of toothpaste for the job; an anti plaque toothpaste, as well as enamel repair toothpaste. You can use the enamel repair one in the morning and the anti plaque toothpaste in the evening. Rather than just sticking to one type, this prevents plaque and tartar buildup while maintaining strong tooth enamel through remineralization, as well as preventing pains due to sensitivity. 

Cleaning your toothbrush

Plaque bacteria and other germs can still linger on your rinsed toothbrush and cup. Like dirty dishes, your toothbrush needs to be cleaned each day, otherwise you’ll just reintroduce harmful germs back into your mouth.

You can take hydrogen peroxide (The kind that says 3% and can be used as an oral debriding agent. More on that soon). Fill half the cup with peroxide and dilute it with an equal half of water. Place the toothbrush in to disinfect both the cup and the brush. Let this soak for a few minutes. You can empty this later and rinse with water. This offers a safe and inexpensive solution to disinfect. If you don’t have peroxide available, you can use a drop of dish soap to clean your toothbrush, just be sure to run it under water for at least 20 seconds to wash away the germs. 


As for mouthwash, be careful what brand you get if you buy it at the store. Some can do more harm than good, such as stripping away your tooth enamel, which leads to pain and sensitivity, as well as destroying the natural good bacteria in your mouth. Choose a reputable brand of either regular or natural mouthwash based on what’s best for you and your dental situation.

I wouldn’t recommend any that are made in China, some of these contain pretty questionable chemicals and lack quality control. Natural mouthwashes can be effective and frugal solutions, if properly prepared. Mouthwash should be used last, after flossing and brushing. Here are a few of my favorite homemade mouthwash recipes that my family and I used during difficult times.

Mouthwash Recipe 1: 

  • One cup of water
  • Three teaspoons of baking soda
  • (Optional) You can add a few drops of peppermint or spearmint essential oil

Stir the solution around with a spoon vigorously. Pour a small amount (about the size of a shot glass) into a cup. Swish around your mouth for 30 seconds and spit out. 

Mouthwash Recipe 2: 

  • One cup of water
  • Two to three tablespoons apple cider vinegar 

Simply mix together and pour a small amount into a cup. Swish around for 30 seconds and spit out. You do not want to add more apple cider vinegar than I recommended, as too much will be very acidic. 

Mouthwash Recipe 3: Best for Sore gums

  • One cup of warm water
  • Two tablespoons of sage, preferably ground
  • One tablespoon of salt
  • (Optional) Raw Honey

Mix together and swish around your mouth for a few minutes. It’ll help reduce swelling of the gums and soothe any sores. This works nicely for any wisdom teeth that are coming in as well. 

Mouthwash Recipe 4: (Not For Regular Use) 

  • One tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide for oral use
  • One tablespoon of water

Mix together the solution and swish around your mouth for 30 seconds. This should be used after each meal and no longer than a week. This will disinfect your mouth and can act as a deep cleaning agent. As a bonus, it can remove plaque, tartar and stubborn calculus from your enamel while whitening your teeth. Do NOT use it longer than a week. Be sure to dilute it properly and do not swallow it. This is something that should only be used every once in a while, such as every other month. 


I’d also like to add, despite the more recent controversies stating it’s no longer necessary to floss your teeth, please do not ditch this practice! Flossing gets out pieces of food that are wedged between your teeth that brushing and rinsing might not be able to dislodge. When you have bits of food stuck between your teeth, it can cause your teeth to try to accommodate it by trying to make room.

This not only leaves gaps, but can help force teeth to shift and crowd into each other, which can be painful. Neglecting flossing can cause bleeding gums and lead to gingivitis. Whether you use conventional floss or a water floss, be sure to floss at least once a day. Don’t forget to use a tongue scraper! It doesn’t pay to clean your mouth if you ignore your tongue, which also harbors food and bad bacteria. 

Dental nutrition

 Dental care isn’t just about keeping your mouth clean, it’s about giving your body what it needs to maintain the health of your teeth, blood vessels and gums. This means providing necessary nutrition through your diet, via food or supplements. A multivitamin is a good start to your day.

Some important vitamins and minerals I’d especially recommend for dental health (and your general health) would be Vitamin C, Zinc, Vitamin D and Calcium. Vitamin C is excellent for your gum health, Zinc heals on a cellular level and can help heal wounds, including mouth sores faster. Vitamin D and calcium is a must-have for strong teeth and bones. Without these, you’ll be prone to scurvy, shifting teeth, bleeding and sore gums, gum disease, reduced healing, weakened teeth and other potentially serious consequences.  

Home Remedies for Toothaches and Gum Problems

Disclaimer: This is not a substitute for regular dental care, nor is it medical advice. Following are some ways that have traditionally been used for home support.

Nobody’s perfect. Sometimes we can try our hardest to prepare and prevent, but bad luck will strike anyway. I’ve included a list of home remedies that can help for when it does. 

  1. Salt Water: If you’re experiencing toothache or gum pain, be sure to swish and rinse your mouth with a warm salt water solution. Add a tablespoon of salt to eight ounces of heated water. Stir until thoroughly dissolved. Swish in your mouth for at least a minute. Use 3% one part hydrogen peroxide, one part water solution for even stronger disinfection.  
  2. Ice pack: Pressing an ice pack or cold compress against your cheek can help reduce swelling and pain. 
  3. Honey: I’ve found that this is best for reducing gum swelling and pain. Pour some on a teaspoon and let it in your mouth for ten to fifteen minutes or longer. Honey has natural healing antimicrobial properties. It can help kill germs and quell pain. Raw Honey works best.
  4. Garlic: Whether you have garlic powder, fresh garlic or crushed garlic tablets, it’s great to use to help combat potential infections. It has natural antibiotic and antiviral properties. 
  5. Clove Essential Oil: I haven’t personally used this yet, but it was recommended by friends who swear by it. They say it’s a great way to stop tooth pain and infections. Before using essential oil, it must be added to a carrier oil like coconut oil to dilute it. The proper ratio that’s recommended is ten to fifteen drops of clove oil per one ounce of a carrier oil of your choosing. 
  6. Enamel Repair Toothpaste: These can be pricey if you don’t get them on sale. This will help stop tooth pain that’s due to temperature sensitivities and weak enamel. 
  7. Tea bag: While peppermint tea bags work the best, green or black tea can help reduce swelling and inflammation. Just apply a warm tea bag to the affected tooth and leave it there for a while. 
  8. Vanilla Extract: I’ve personally never tried this, but my family members have and said that applying vanilla extract to the tooth and gum helped stop the pain. 
  9. Over-the-counter pain relievers: While not a natural solution, ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen can help reduce swelling and pain.
  10. Natural Pain Relievers:  If you’re looking for a more natural solution, I’ve found that white willow bark tea, sage and thyme tea, as well as calcium supplements, can really help reduce pain. I’d recommend calcium citrate, but I’ve already taken antacids with calcium carbonate in addition to ibuprofen to stop severe pains due to other injuries.

Everyone is different, and some solutions that may work great for other people might not work the best for you. The important part is trying to stop pain, irritation, swollen gums or potential infections before it becomes worse. Pain shouldn’t be ignored, it’s your body’s way of letting you know that something is wrong. It’s best to try remedies immediately at the first sign of discomfort. Do not procrastinate, it’s best to catch this early and try to stop it before it turns into something much more severe. 

If you try the listed remedies and aren’t seeing relief, and are experiencing symptoms such as a swollen face, swollen neck, severe throbbing tooth pain, tooth pain that spreads to other areas, bad taste and smell, you’ll need to see a dentist, because you have an infection. This can spread to other areas of the body and cause difficulty breathing. Head to an emergency room or dentist immediately.

Building Dental Kits and Dental Emergency Kits

Having a stock of necessary dental supplies, as well as a dental emergency kit is always a good idea. This doesn’t have to be some expensive venture. You can acquire a pretty decent stockpile by buying items on sale, purchasing items in bulk amounts, and using coupons or store discounts.

I always stock up on toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, tongue scrapers, mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, raw honey, coconut oil, baking soda and apple cider vinegar (a very versatile product). You can order stainless steel dental kits online. These are great tools for inspecting all areas of your mouth, scraping plaque from your teeth and checking below the gum line for plaque growth and to prevent decay. These instruments can be easily cleaned and sterilized for repeated use. You should make a habit of doing your own checkup once a month to catch any problems early. 

Emergency dental kits are always great to have on hand. You can buy premade kits or make ones for yourself. Here’s a list of important items to include in your kit. 

  • Tea bags 
  • Clove essential oil
  • Sage powder (for sore gums) 
  • Salt 
  • Thyme (can reduce toothache while cleaning mouth) 
  • Raw honey 
  • Vanilla extract with alcohol 
  • Dental dressing or gauze
  • Hydrogen peroxide 3% the kind that can be used as an oral debriding agent. It must be diluted, one part peroxide one part water
  • Gloves
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Dental mirrors 
  • Plaque removers
  • Headlamp or good flashlight
  • Oral anesthetic gel
  • Tooth Saver (to properly store a knocked-out tooth until you’re able to get to a dentist)
  • Tweezers
  • Temporary cavity fillings
  • Waterproof case
  • Antibiotics (Amoxicillin is a must-have for most tooth infections. You can purchase fish mox at online pet stores. This is great to have if you’re in the most severe type of SHTF where there are no medical professionals to help you. Adhere to the proper dosages for a human) 
  • Garlic (it’s great for infected gums and has natural antibiotic properties. Use large doses of garlic in conjunction with amoxicillin to kick an infection’s butt)

You may also want to stock up on cheap soft foods, such as applesauce, puddings, cream soups, pancake mix, instant mashed potatoes, and grits, as well as use a food chopper to prepare less chewy meals. Soft foods will be a godsend if you’re suffering from tooth and gum pain, not to mention other ailments such as tonsillitis. 

Whether you’re bugging in during SHTF, planning a bug out bag or an INCH bag, or a professional medical emergency kit, emergency dental kits should always be included in your plans. It may come in handy when you need it most. 

What do you think?

By following a thorough dental routine, we were able to avoid cavities, tartar, calculus, tooth loss, gum disease, infections, and yellow, unhealthy teeth during hard times for years. In the long run, it saved us costly dental bills, unnecessary pain, and stress, and it can do so when SHTF.

Do you have any special dental preps not mentioned here? How do you care for your teeth to prevent problems? Have your dental preps ever helped you through hard times? Tell us about it in the comments.

About Blackbird

Blackbird grew up in poverty in the rural Pennsylvania countryside during a harsh economic recession. She learned self-reliance from her family at a young age and is now a seasoned prepper of many years. She enjoys nature walks, reading, gardening, working outdoors, and drawing in her spare time.

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  • My brother died from endocarditis which they said was caused by dental caries that were left untreated. I personally had some radical dental done to decrease the dental problems that I might have faced in the future.

    I would suggest that if you went years in an SHTF scenario, I would hope that you knew how to create some dental care items from nature because the dental supplies you have may not last a long time. Knowing how to clean your teeth with dental instruments would also be a plus and could be a barter service if dentists weren’t readily available.

    • Everytime I squeeze toothpaste out of the tube, I wonder how little I could use to extend my supply.
      At some point in time, you will run out of the stuff.

  • Ahhhh, some healthy, lighter, non threatening reading this Friday morning….I like it. 🙂 I tend to agree on taking care of the mouth since it’s the gateway into our bodies & it harbors so much bacteria.

    Oil pulling is also quite beneficial if you can handle the feeling of it in your mouth. Take a teaspoon or more of coconut oil (Costco has a massive jug) in your mouth & swish it around for at least 3-5 mins every morning & spit it out in the trash (do NOT spit it in the sink, it will clog your drains).

    I also make my own colloidal silver (don’t believe the google BS it’s been around forever). I gargle with it every day (I add spearmint or peppermint essential oils too). I swallow a Tblsn. of it every so often to aid as a supplement as well (without the essential oil in it). Been giving it to my 5 barn cats for almost 2 years now & they have never been so healthy with such beautiful coats (they don’t throw up fur balls anymore). It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal & anti-parasitic. I feel colloidal silver should be in everyone’s stockpile but would bet few have it.

    When I started flossing is when I started seeing a real change in my health. I was not getting sick as often. Who knew.

    Thanks for the article. Not so much doom & gloom today! 😉

    • you’ve been giving your barn cats colloidal silver? did you happen to read the article on colloidal gold recently to get rid of the nano-crap from the you know what bioweapons?

      • Source for colloidal gold??? We have been using monatomic gold for DNA rebuild and endocrine center spiritualization.

      • Not yet. Never heard of colloidal gold. I use the silver for too many things to list. If it’s used to detox that says it all…anti-parasitic (which is what iverm**tin is actually).

          • Steve Berwick sells a kit and wire on line that we use. There are probably others. Definitely want to make your own from an economics aspect.

          • Yes Edra, The Silver Edge is the site to buy a generator. It is not cheap but in the long run SO affordable. You simply do not mind pouring silver into your washer to sanitize it if you can make your own quart for pennies. Which is why I give a teaspoon to my barn cats every other bowl filling.

            Steve Barwick’s site is valuable info squashing a lot of myths & lies about silver. I think we can by now understand why the FDA wants it banned (does anyone even trust them anymore?)

            Think about it, if silver is in the gauzes & gels used for burn victims & now they have washers that have some sort of silver infused mechanism (no idea how that works), silver must be beneficial enough for something.

    • We use oil pulling as well, great help. We produce our own colloidal silver and agree with you on its benefits. Have not tried it with the cats. Thanks for the tip. Also may want to look at our ProDentim posting.

      • You can use it for dogs, horses, in the garden, plants, most anything. I spray my fruits & vegies with it then rinse them….just too many to mention.

  • pretty solid article. Teeth issues are always a major concern when there will be no access to dental care – EVER. I would imagine a pair of pliers would ultimately become necessary if the need arose to pull a rotten tooth. I wish one could find true hard setting dental amalgam for such a case where the tooth could be cleaned and filled.

  • Great article indeed! Few people think about their teeth until something really hurts. What I’d really like to know is what manner of maroon says flossing isn’t necessary? I want to know whom to ignore completely. I floss every day. In addition to removing food things stuck between teeth, it can also remove mild calculi. Well worth temporarily purple fingertips!

  • Excellent article. I can attest to the importance of tooth and mouth health to overall health. Appart from my own experience, from what I´ve seen with the homeless this is crucial not only for overall health but goes beyond that.

    The ones I met and had contact with that had good mouth hygiene were also the ones in best shape overall, as some things go together. They were the cleanest, away from drugs and crime.

    It´s anectodal but I´ve seen this happen enough over the years to say it´s correlated, and vital. Social agents and associations helping the homeless also mentined that, so much the tooth care kit is a basic staple of social assistance.

    So this article is 100% spot on about everything. Doesn´t matter what kind of SHTF, take care of your mouth and teeth.

  • Leading up to Y2K, a very few had all their teeth pulled and got dentures. Of course dentures aren’t guaranteed forever. The interviewee didn’t state if s/he had an extra set or not (and if s/he felt confident the spare would fit right at a future date). Seemed and still seems a bit extreme. But I would suggest keeping up on dental issues. If you have a regular dentist, s/he might take payments. Not keen on financing but the interest paid might be less painful (in both senses) over the long run.

    • Fantastic and very thorough article! Thank you so very much! Responding to Selina’s comment about paying finance charges for dental work. If you need any type of medical help, you can use a Care Credit card that will lend you $1,200, interest free, if you repay it in total in 6 months. After 6 months, their sky high interest rate will kick in from the beginning. Hope this helps somebody.

  • Just over a month ago, I cracked a tooth and had to have it pulled.

    Had a friend who was under stress so bad he was grinding his teeth at night and cracked one.
    Wonder if under the stress of the SHTF, would we see more cracked teeth?

    • I wouldn’t be surprised to see your higher stress:cracked teeth hypothesis occur 1st Marine.
      In my 20’s I ground my teeth so hard at night, the dentist fitted me with a guard to prevent wear. Once I moved to another job, my teeth grinding went away. I didn’t think the job was that stressful, but apparently it was.

  • I always tell young people, who of course usually think they’re immortal and icky age-related problems won’t happen to them, that while they’re young, take the greatest care of their : 1. feet 2. back 3. teeth 4. eyes, and 5. skin. Not just for aesthetic reasons, but because those things can be a misery they can’t imagine as they get older. Some of them listen, some don’t. I did some of those things when I was young, others not so much, and I’ve reaping what I’ve sown.

  • I take pretty good care of my teeth, but there was quite a bit of new information in this article that I found valuable. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience with us.

  • While many of these items we have done and can support the author’s findings and recommendations, we would add one recently discovered. ProDentim tablets are great for rebuilding the good bacteria which in turn helps rebuild enamel. We have been using them for about 4 months now and getting great results. Do NOT get the gelatin capsules sold by the same name on Amazon. Waste of time and money from our experience. And no, we do not benefit in any way from these recommendations other than sharing our discoveries with others. Have not seen a dentist since 2005.

  • I would recommend adding Toothache plant (spilanthes acmella) to your herb list…and your garden. It’s a beautiful plant with astonishing healing properties that go far beyond numbing your mouth. As always, thoroughly research any plant you might use frequently.

  • Great article Blackbird, and I agree proper Oral Hygiene will be a make it or break it issue as services become unavailable and unaffordable.
    Clove Oil, is an excellent Oral First Aid Kit component. Eugenol, the active ingredient in Clove Oil, has antibacterial, antiseptic and pain killing properties. If you’ve ever had a Dentist put in a temporary “Medicated Filling,” then you’ll recognize the taste of Eugenol, as it’s a prime component of Medicated Fillings, and used to stop an infection in the tooth to be repaired.
    You’re also correct that it must be diluted. Pure Clove oil can give you a pretty harsh chemical burn on your Oral mucosa. Olive Oil, Coconut or Grapeseed Oil all make good carrier oils.
    Welcome to our group. I hope to read more articles from you in the future, and thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

  • I make a tooth powder that works wonderfully and the ingredients have a long shelf life. As others mentioned I also do oil pulling and use colloidal silver, which is great for so many things. We use an essential oil blend from Orawellness called HealThy Mouth. Since my son has started using it, no cavities! Thieves oil (or something similar) is amazing for Tooth aches. It will also numb and heal canker sores.

  • Bentonite clay can help when there is an infection. I have found that it helps relieve the pain. It is probably good overall for controlling bad bacteria. Some of the tooth powders at the store include bentonite clay so I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has had success with it. I’ve seen a toothpaste recipes with the following ingredients: clay (for bacteria), activated charcoal (alternate bacteria fighter), baking soda (abrasive), salt (alternate abrasive). Sounds like coconut oil would be a good addition, too.

  • Well done Blackbird. If no floss is availible, I have used thread from fine-threaded fibre material, like a pair of synthetic long johns or whatever. Also, the peroxide brush cleaning is a good idea..just don’t store the brush in the peroxide, it will harden/deteriorate the bristles.

  • Toothpaste is NOT necessary.
    I would argue tooth brushes and floss or something like it are.
    The point is to clean your teeth minimum daily.

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