Brushing Teeth on Shabbos

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Question: Is it permitted to brush one’s teeth on Shabbos, with or without toothpaste?

Discussion: The consensus of contemporary poskim is that it is forbidden to use toothpaste on Shabbos.108 Their main concern is that applying regular (solid) toothpaste to the teeth or the brush could result in a transgression of the prohibited Shabbos Labor of Memareiach, smoothing.

Brushing without toothpaste, or using liquid toothpaste, is permitted,109 provided that the following conditions are met:

  • Use a soft brush so as not to irritate the gums and cause bleeding. [People with extremely sensitive gums who bleed whenever they brush their teeth may not use a toothbrush at all.]
  • To avoid the prohibition of Sechitah, squeezing, a dry toothbrush should be used. It is, however, permitted to rinse the mouth with cold water (or liquid toothpaste) first and then use the toothbrush.110
  • Preferably, use a toothbrush that is designated for Shabbos use only.111 Some poskim recommend that the Shabbos toothbrush also look different from the weekday one, e.g., be of a different color or style.112
  • The toothbrush should not be rinsed off after it is used. If it is going to be used again on that same Shabbos it may be rinsed but the bristles may not be scrubbed.113

108. Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:112; Seridei Eish 2:28; Minchas Yitzchak 3:48; Tzitz Eliezer 7:30; Shevet ha-Levi 5:45. [While a minority opinion permits using toothpaste—see Ketzos ha-Shulchan (Badei ha-Shulchan 138:31), Yabia Omer 4:27-30 and Nefesh ha-Rav, pg. 168—it is almost universally accepted not to do so.]

109. See Minchas Shelomo 2:35:3.

110. Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:112; Shevet ha-Levi 5:45.

111. Based on Mishnah Berurah 327:10.

112. Minchas Yitzchak 3:48; 3:50.

113. Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:112.