Of course nowadays the way we brush our teeth is different to the way that it first started and the way that the infallible figures did it. Today we usually use a modern toothbrush -which was invented in 1780 by an English prisoner with a bone and boar hair- and toothpaste -which was invented in the 1850’s-, as in the past they used to use twigs and roots of trees. The tree that was recommended by Imam al-Reza (a.s) was the Salvadora persica tree as he (a.s) stated “The best brush I use are the roots of the Salvadora persica tree as it shines the teeth, freshens the breath, makes the gum firm and strong, and is beneficial for cavities if it was treated fairly.”(3)
Some people do not call the modern toothbrush a miswak and claim it only means the twig or root of a tree used to clean the teeth and some state it is only for the roots of Salvadora persica trees. This claim is new as the meaning of miswak in its core meaning is the tool used to do Al-siwak and the meaning of siwak is to brush, therefore the meaning of miswak is the tool that is used to brush. This means when using the modern toothbrush, you are doing an act recommended by Ahl Al-Bayt (a.s) and the recommendation is not limited to the use of a twig or root. Therefor by brushing teeth even with the modern toothbrush, you get the benefits that are mentioned in ahadith such as the saying of Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) who says: “Brushing your teeth has twelve traits: It is a tradition of the Prophet, it cleans the mouth, it helps to see clearly, it brings the satisfaction of the lord, it removes mucus, it increases memory, it whitens teeth, it multiplies good deeds, it removes cavities, it makes the gum firm, it makes food taste better, and it makes the angels happy.”(4).
1 Wassail Al-Shia v2 p5
2 Wassail Al-Shia v2 p6
3 Bihar Al-Anwar v59 p317
4 Wassail Al-Shia v2 p5