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BRUSHING TEETH ON SHABBAT

By: Rabbi Daniel D. Levy

1

 

               May one brush teeth or floss on Shabbat?

One may brush their teeth on Shabbat with or without water, with no toothpaste, and one may floss, provided that it is not likely for them to bleed from the gums as a result of brushing or flossing. However, if one’s gums regularly bleed each time when brushing or flossing, he should not brush or floss on Shabbat so as to avoid pesikreishah(an inevitable consequence) and the melachah ofchavala (to cause bleeding) which is a toldaof shochet, (to cause a wound). When flossing, one should use
pre-cut floss, and should not cut floss on Shabbat.

2

 

               May regular toothpaste be used?

There is a major dispute in this matter. A majority of halachic authorities (including R’ Moshe Feinstein and Hacham Ben Tzion Abba Shaul) prohibit brushing with regular toothpaste on Shabbat for numerous reasons. (1) The suds that come as a result of brushing may be a prohibition of nolad(creating a new entity) according to some opinions. (2) Applying the toothpaste to the brush and then brushing is a prohibition of memaraich(smoothing) according to most halachic authorities (few are lenient when applying the toothpaste with one’s finger directly on the teeth and then brushing, as this constitutes a deviation from the regular manner of brushing). Hacham Ben Tzion AbbaShaul and Hacham Ovadiah Yosef recommend using liquid toothpaste or mouthwash to avoid this issue. (3) Many people have sensitive gums, which may bleed as a result of brushing (see #1). (4) Some authorities suspect that the water is squeezed from between the bristles when brushing which would cause one to do the melachahof sechitah(squeezing). Kosher Innovations created a Shabbat toothbrush with rubber bristles which are spaced far apart to avoid sechitahand uvdin dechol(not to resemble weekday activities) issues, available at many Judaic stores for purchase. The Yalkut Yosef is lenient to allow brushing on Shabbat if numerous conditions are met (see Shabbat, siman 326, 13 and footnotes 24-27 on bottom for details).

3

 

           May one use mouthwash on Shabbat?

One may use mouthwash on Shabbat since its primary function is to prevent germs and harmful buildup of plaque and the like in the mouth; hence it is not a problem of refuah(medicine) on Shabbat.

4

 

           Must one designate a special toothbrush
           for Shabbat?

The Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim, siman327, 1) states that it was customary to designate a special toothbrush for Shabbat because of “uvdin dechol” (not to resemble weekday activities). Most halachic authorities, including Hacham Ovadiah Yosef and R’ Moshe Feinstein, follow this Magen Avraham and recommend designating a special toothbrush for Shabbat, whereas Hacham Ben Tzion (Or Letzion Vol. 2. Ch. 35 Q6) is of the opinion that it is not necessary to do so. An electric toothbrush is strictly forbidden on Shabbat according to all authorities.

5

 

           May one rinse off the brush after he
           is finished using it?

Most halachic authorities prohibit rinsing off the brush after using it because of hachanah(preparing on Shabbat for after Shabbat) (R’ Moshe Feinstein – Igrot Moshe O.C. Vol 1, 112). Hacham Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Or Letzion ibid.) permits rinsing the brush afterwards onlyif one anticipates brushing again on Shabbat, as this would not constitute preparing from Shabbat to a weekday. Nonetheless, he warns one to not press the brush with his hand when rinsing off so as not to come to squeeze the water between the bristles out because of sechitah(squeezing). The Yalkut Yosef (O.C. Shabbat 326, footnote 27) suggests that perhaps there is no prohibition of preparation from Shabbat to a weekday when rinsing off the brush after usage, since one does so out of habit without much effort or thought of its benefit as a formality, and it is not readily recognizable that he is doing so to prepare it for the next usage after Shabbat.

6

 

           May one use a toothpick on Shabbat?

In the time of the Gemara people would take a splinter of wood to clean the residue between their teeth. Today, we are fortunate to have designated wooden toothpicks available for purchase at most local supermarkets, thus avoiding a problem of muktzeh. If one can clean between their teeth with a toothpick after eating without the likelihood that their gums will bleed as a result of the cleaning, it is permitted to do so. If however, it is extremely likely that the gums will bleed as a result of cleaning between the teeth with a toothpick (pesik reishah) then one should not do so, to avoid the melachahof chavala.

7

 

           May one take Advil/Tylenol or painkillers
           if he/she has a toothache?

If one has a minor discomfort because of a toothache it would be forbidden to take Tylenol to alleviate the discomfort. However, if the pain is intense enough that one would be bedridden and not able to function at all because of the pain then one may (ingest orally) take the necessary medication to alleviate the pain on Shabbat (Orach Chaim, siman328). If one recently had a tooth extracted or had a root canal, and the painkillers were started before Shabbat and are taken as a preventive measure to avoid pain, it is permitted to continue taking them on Shabbat. According to most halachic authorities, antibiotics may continue to be taken on Shabbat to complete treatment for a tooth or gum infection.

8

 

           May an adult pull out a loose tooth
           of a child on Shabbat?

It is preferable not to pull out a loose tooth of a child since some opinions hold that it is a violation of the melachahof gozez(shearing). Furthermore, if extracting the tooth is likely to cause bleeding, which is forbidden under the melachahof chavala, it should not be done by a Jew.

9

 

           Is there an issue of carrying
           if one wears a bite plate from home
           to synagogue on Shabbat?

There is no problem for one to wear a bite plate in public on Shabbat. However, one should be cautious not to carry the case in which the bite plate is stored when it is not being worn unless a kosher eiruvis up in the area that one is carrying in that Shabbat.

10

 

           May one wear the rubber bands on braces
           from home to synagogue on Shabbat?

One may wear the rubberbands on braces even in public on Shabbat as this is the normal procedure which is customary for one who wears braces. There is no suspicion that others will laugh at him causing him to take them off and carry on Shabbat. One should be careful to have an ample supply of replacement rubber bands to affix to the braces at the place where they are going, and not carry unnecessarily replacement bands when possible, even within the confines of a kosher eiruv.