Morning breath, masaalah breath, just plain ol' bad breath – problems that have plagued mankind since the dawn of time, and for which solutions are touted aplenty. Electric toothbrushes, mouthwash, breath mints… the companies producing them make pretty brisk business!
For Muslims the issue is more serious than for others, since the importance of overall hygiene – and specifically oral hygiene – is strongly emphasized in the Sunnah of our beloved Rasool (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam). And as with everything else, the best of solutions lies not in the latest bacteria-fighting invention, but in the Qur'an and Sunnah.
So what, you ask, is the solution presented to us 1400 years ago? It is called… the siwaak. Basically, it's a twig taken from certain kinds of trees and usually available at your local masjid, Islamic centre, halaal-imports/ exports/ meat/ corner store, and generous uncles who always have a spare in their shalwar kamees pocket :D
Better than a toothbrush any day – because it's 100% natural and environmentally friendly, and doesn't need a cumbersome routine involving toothpaste and water to rinse (not to mention mentally humming “Twinkle twinkle little star” so that you remember how long you're supposed to brush) – the practice and benefits of the tooth stick are well-documented.
Far more importantly, however, is simply the fact that using the siwaak was something the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) loved to do, and urged his Ummah to do, whether at home, at the masjid, or alone.
Abu Hurayrah (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Were it not for the fact that I did not want to make things too hard for my ummah, I would have commanded them to use the siwaak at every time of prayer.” (Reported by al-Bukhāri, 2/299 and Muslim, 1/151). According to another report narrated by al-Bukhāri, he said: “…at every time of making wuḍūʼ'.”
'Aa'ishah was asked what the Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did when he first came home. She said, “When he entered his house, the first thing he would do was to use the siwaak.” (Reported by Muslim, 1/220).
When getting up from sleep. Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamaan (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported that when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) got up during the night, he would clean his mouth thoroughly with the siwaak. (Reported by al-Bukhāri, 1/98 and Muslim, 1/220)
Here's a lesser-known hadeeth regarding the siwaak and its spiritual as well as physical effects.
As soon as the Messenger of Allāh (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) got up for Qiyam al-Layl, he would brush his teeth with a siwaak and perform wudhu, he (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “When one of you gets up to pray at night, let him use a siwaak (to clean his teeth), because when he recites during the prayer, the angel puts his mouth over his, so that nothing leaves his mouth but will enter into the angel's mouth.” [(saheeh) by Shaikh al-Albanee (al-Bayhaqee and others)]
So what are you waiting for? Go and brush your teeth!