Do you know when was the toothbrush invented? Did you know that teeth cleaning apparatuses have been around for thousands of years? When you compare our modern toothbrush to the crude oral hygiene tools of past civilizations, we bet you will develop a new-found appreciation for your toothbrush. Toothbrushes come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. From manual toothbrushes, to electric ones, the toothbrush is the tool we use for daily brushing, ensuring stellar oral hygiene. But, have you ever wondered how the toothbrush came to be? Let us explore the rich history of the toothbrush.
The First Toothbrushes in History
The Babylonians and Egyptians crafted one of the earliest toothbrushes in 3000-3500 BC. They used frayed ends of twigs, devices similar to a large toothpick to clean their teeth. They called the twig a “chew stick”, and broke the twigs off from aromatic trees, which provided refreshment for the mouth. They found that when they chewed on these sticks, it cleaned their teeth and freshened their breath.
In 1600 BC, the Chinese developed the first bristled toothbrush made from the hair of hogs. They attached the bristles to bamboo or bone handles. Later, the Europeans altered the Chinese concept. Instead of using the hair of hogs for bristles, they used the hair of wild boars and horses. Wild boar hair was more commonly used, due to horse hair being more expensive and difficult to obtain in Europe. In the 1200’s, monastic communities in China began using ox bone for the toothbrush handle and horse tail hair for the bristles.
When the Pilgrims left England and landed on Plymouth Rock in 1621, they had to invent a new way to care for their teeth. Using what they had around them, the Pilgrims had to forego horsehair bristles and scrape their teeth with bones and feathers to remove plaque from their pearly whites. It’s also likely that the Pilgrims rubbed salt on their teeth as an abrasive cleaner to remove grime and kill bacteria.
Native Americans, on the other hand, took the more natural, earthy route when it came to their dental care. They used various herbs, such as sage and tarragon, to remove plaque from their teeth and freshen their breath. Some tribes were very scientifically advanced and used the cucacua plant to create a paste that they used to clean their teeth.
The Evolution of the Toothbrush
In 1780, history shows that William Addis of England developed the first mass-produced toothbrush. Addis, a prisoner, was often cited for instigating riots. He was also known for wanting to look clean and kempt. He carved a small brush handle from bone and then inserted boar bristles, held together by wires, at the top of the newly-fashioned brush. He later mass-produced his invention after leaving prison.
As the toothbrush gained popularity, Addis saw his business grow. He later died in 1808, leaving his prosperous toothbrush business to his son, who was also named William. Later, the toothbrushes were exported to the United States and business continued to grow at an unprecedented rate. During World War II, the Addis toothbrush company had over 600 employees. These workers manufactured the patented toothbrushes using the first injection molding machines, which were purchased by the Addis family.
Wisdom Toothbrushes, the brand launched by the Addis family, grew into Britain’s leading toothbrush manufacturer. In 1996, the family sold the company.
The first Nylon Toothbrush in History
In 1938, the first nylon-bristled toothbrush was produced by Dupont de Nemours. It went on sale on February 24th and was named Doctor West’s Miracle Toothbrush. Later, after Americans witnessed the oral health habits of soldiers from World War II, they began to practice oral hygiene themselves, and then adopted the nylon toothbrush.
History is made with the First Electric Toothbrush
As the Industrial Revolution gained momentum, innovative technological advances began to surface; one was the electric toothbrush. Around the 1880s, an Englishman began promoting an array of electrical devices, which included electric hair brushes and toothbrushes.
While there was no electric component to these devices, it was later revealed that the brushes had magnetized rods embedded in the handles.
Dr. Dr. Philippe-G. Woog is credited for inventing the world’s first electric toothbrush in 1954 under the brand name Broxodent. Dr. Woog is also known for a variety of dental equipment and dental products for home use. The electric toothbrushes Dr. Woog crafted, were initially manufactured in Switzerland for Broxo S.A.
To operate this toothbrush, the user had to plug it into a wall outlet. Electric toothbrushes were initially created for individuals with with limited motor skills and patients undergoing orthodontic treatments.
Learn how to best use your toothbrush
In 2003, a poll was conducted on what invention Americans wouldn’t want to live without. The respondents of the poll overwhelmingly chose the toothbrush. Even though the toothbrush is one of the most important inventions in the history of oral hygiene, you still need dental cleanings to remove tartar buildup. We proudly offer comprehensive dental services and procedures to residents of Chicago, IL and surrounding areas, including the Northwest and North Shore suburbs. To learn more, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. James Fondriest and our compassionate staff, contact us online, or by dialing (847) 234-0517. We look forward to providing you and your family with personalized care.