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According to Kosher Innovations hilchos shabbos presents four obstacles* to brushing teeth:

Sechitah: Squeezing liquid out of a solid in which it was absorbed is prohibited on Shabbos. When wet, densely packed nylon bristles of a regular toothbrush are pressed against the teeth, many poskim consider it is as if the water is squeezed out of the bristles and forbid using a wet toothbrush. The rubber bristles of the Shabbos Toothbrush™ are far enough apart that it is obvious that liquid does not get absorbed into the bristles and is not squeezed out Shabbos Toothbrush's soft rubber "bristles"

Chavalah: Causing oneself to bleed on Shabbos is prohibited. Sharp nylon bristles of a regular toothbrush can cause gums to bleed. The soft rounded rubber bristles of the Shabbos Toothbrush™ do not cause bleeding. In the extremely rare case that very sensitive gums bleed even with the Shabbos Toothbrush™, consult your local Rabbi and see your dentist!

Memareach: Spreading a cream or ointment onto an object used as an applicator to the body is prohibited on Shabbos. Therefore, most poskim prohibit use of regular toothpaste or gel applied to any toothbrush. Kosher Innovations™ Shabbos Toothwash™ is a concentrated liquid and this prohibition does not apply. We do not recommend using the Shabbos Toothbrush™ with any product other than Kosher Innovations Shabbos Toothwash™ Also, the Shabbos Toothwash™ is certified kosher by the OU.

Uvdin D'Chol: If a regular activity involves something that one may not do on Shabbos, that activity will be classified as a “weekday activity”. For some poskim who permit the use of a regular toothbrush without toothpaste this prohibition would apply to using one's weekday toothbrush and they require a separate and even distinctive toothbrush for Shabbos. The Kosher Innovations Shabbos Toothbrush™ was designed specifically for Shabbos and not for weekday use, eliminating the issue of Uvdin D'Chol according to all poskim.

According to a list found here, Sechitah (whether a Tolda of Dush or Melabain) and Memachaik (a rabbinic prohibition based on Memareach) are forbidden on Yom Tov, while Chavalah (a Tolda of Shochet) and is permitted.

If one has a unique toothbrush set aside for Yom Tov (to avoid an Uvda D'Chol) and does neither wet the toothbrush (to avoid Sechitah) nor apply toothpaste (to avoid Memareach), it would seem that the sole act of brushing the teeth with a standard toothbrush (even if it causes bleeding) would be permitted on Yom Tov.

However, I have never seen or heard this stated explicitly. Neither has R' Yakov Farkas, a Wiznitzer Dayan in Montreal, but he could also not think of a reason it would be prohibited.

Any sources?


* They mistakenly call Memareach and Uvda D'Chol – which are rabbinic prohibitions – "categories of prohibited melacha".

  • Technically, sechitah wouldn't ever apply for a toothbrush. It only applies to either 1) an object natively containing liquid (like a fruit) or 2) water capable of being used to clean. For the toothbrush, the water isn't doing the work - the paste is, and any liquid squeezed out wouldn't be water you could, say, wash your hands with.\ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 18 '15 at 21:55
  • @IsaacKotlicky I believe the Sechita issue is in this case a toladah of Melabein, not Dash. That is, it's Asur to squeeze fabric because of an aspect of Laundering, not because it is similar to Extracting. Correct me if I'm wrong. – LN6595 Mar 19 '15 at 1:15
  • @LN6595 there are two types is sechitah, as mention. For melabein, what matters is that you are squeezing out water usable for cleaning another object. So the liquid off a toothbrush might bee squeezed out, but it isn't useful for cleaning, and thus isn't considered sechitah. – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 19 '15 at 2:03
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    @IsaacKotlicky I think squeezing as a tolada of melabein (cleaning) is where you're extracting the dirt (e.g. dirty water) from the object (e.g. garment) rendering the object cleaner. Do you have a source for the prohibition's use where you're extracting a cleaning product but the original object is not cleaner? – Loewian Mar 19 '15 at 17:09
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    @IsaacKotlicky To which Rabbi Leibowitz are you referring? Is there an online reference? Also, I think perhaps I wasn't clear or am not understanding your reply. You said "For melabein, what matters is that you are squeezing out water usable for cleaning another object." To my understanding of the sugya, what you're describing is a dash-sechita (extracting something useful from its source); melabein-sechita is extracting something dirty from something resultantly clean(er). Please let me know if you have a reference otherwise. – Loewian Mar 19 '15 at 18:30
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According to http://shiurim.rabbibelovski.com/i/48.brushing%20teeth.shabbat.pdf (And note all the source there)

The English Summary at the bottom:

Given the number of distinct issues involved in brushing teeth, theoretically, there could be numerous opinions regarding which issues we must be concerned with and which issues are not of concern to us. However, leading poskim split into four basic camps. We will list the most prominent practical opinions starting with the most lenient and ending vith the most stringent.

A. The opinion of Rabbi Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik and yibadel l’chaim tovim, his student Rabbi Hershel Schachter shlit"a: According to these poskim it is absolutely permissible to brush teeth on Shabbat with a wet toothbrush and toothpaste. It is also permissible to wash the toothbrush ifter brushing.

B. The opinion of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef shlit"a: Rabbi Yosef maintains that one (specifically referring to Sefardim) may brush with a wet toothbrush and toothpaste. However, one must set aside a separate toothbrush specifically for Shabbat use due to the concern of uvda d’chol. It is also preferable not to wash the toothbrush after brushing due to concerns of hachanah.

C. The opinion of Rabbis Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg and Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l: One may not use regular toothpaste on Shabbat due to concerns of mimarayach. However, it is perfectly permissible to use liquid toothpaste on the toothbrush, and brush normally.

D. The opinion of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt”l: One should not use toothpaste due to a problem of mimarayach, and should not wet the toothbrush before using it due to a problem of sechita. The toothbrush should also not be washed off after brushing due to problems of hachono. The best method of brushing, according to Rabbi Feinstein, is to put mouthwash or liquid toothpaste directly into the mouth. One may then take a dry toothbrush and brush normally (provided that he is not certain to bleed). One should also be careful not to wash the toothbrush after brushing (due to concerns of hachanah).

  • I generally follow the practice of liquifying my toothpaste with a bit of mouthwash prior to shabbat then applying that to the mouth and brushing. You can also put some mouthwash in the mouth. You must have very weak gums if they bleed with regular brushing.. – CashCow Mar 19 '15 at 16:14
  • I believe I've heard that Rab Yisrael Belsky, shlitah, says that Rav Moshe's ruling was influenced by a misrepresentation/misunderstanding of the effect of toothpaste (that it leaves a coating on the teeth[?]). – Loewian Mar 19 '15 at 17:12
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I heard from my local Orthodox Rabbi that it is permitted to brush one's teeth on Shabbos and Yom Tov with a dry toothbrush that is set aside for Shabbos/Yom Tov use.

This is permitted even if your mouth is moist (with water or mouthwash) and even if it may (but is not very likely to) cause bleeding.

  • Would you mind editing in who he is? – msh210 Mar 19 '15 at 7:28
  • I remember slightly that this is the opinion of rav Ovadia. I also remember an rjj journal article which brings ALL the shitos – Shoel U'Meishiv Mar 19 '15 at 13:40

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