A History of the Toothbrush

Toothbrushes are such an integral part of our lifestyles that it probably isn’t surprising to hear that the history of the toothbrush dates as far back as 3500 BC. The earliest toothbrushes were chew sticks fashioned by the Babylonians and the Egyptians, made by simply fraying the end of a twig. The other end of the twig could be used as a toothpick. The Chinese made their “toothbrushes” in a similar manner, and at 1600 BC they were fashioning chew sticks from aromatic tree twigs that would freshen breath as they cleaned. Chew sticks are still commonly used today, particularly in Africa and the rural United States.

It is believed that the Chinese were the creators of the original bristle toothbrush. These early toothbrushes, which date back to the Tang Dynasty (619–907 AD), featured bristles from hogs in northern China and Siberia, as hogs in that region tended to have firmer bristles due to the colder climate. The handle was made from either bamboo or bone. By 1223, these toothbrushes were being made with bristles of horsetail hair and handles of ox bone. At some point during the next few centuries, the toothbrush traveled to Europe, and since Europeans preferred the softness of horsetail hair, most toothbrushes were made using horsehair for the bristles.

The first mass produced toothbrushes emerged in the late 18th century after an English entrepreneur named William Addis produced his own toothbrush in a jail cell using an animal bone (leftover from a meal) and some bristles (from one of the guards). When he was released from jail, he started a business for selling his toothbrushes and was soon reaping tremendous profits. His business, which was eventually renamed Wisdom Toothbrushes, actually stayed within the family until 1996.

Toothbrushes all featured natural bristles until the 1930s, when DuPont developed nylon. Since then, the use of synthetic materials for toothbrushes has grown dramatically. The typical design of the toothbrush has also changed. The first electric toothbrush was invented in Switzerland in 1954. And in the 1980s, Johnson & Johnson introduced the “Reach” toothbrush, which featured an angled handle, more compact bristles, and longer bristles along the outer edge for cleaning in between teeth. The science of toothbrush manufacturing continues to evolve, as manufacturers come up with new designs and materials to promote better oral hygiene.

You Might Also Enjoy...

4 Fun Ways to Get Your Kid to Brush Their Teeth

As a parent, it seems like your life is filled with fighting your kids to do something they don’t want to. Take out the trash, do their homework, brush their teeth. It’s a constant struggle, to teach your child to be an independent being who can...

5 Vitamins and Minerals Your Child Needs for Healthy Teeth

It’s no surprise that certain foods have different effects on your child’s teeth. Some foods, like those that are high in sugar, can cause serious dental problems if proper hygiene isn’t followed. Other foods are necessary for the healthy dental...

Thumbsucking and Its Affect On Your Child’s Teeth

It’s normal for your baby to start sucking their thumb when they are young; it’s an important part of them learning how to self soothe. The simple act of thumbsucking as a baby is not something that you as a parent need to worry about. It only becomes...

How Diabetes Affects Your Child’s Teeth

Individuals with diabetes are actually at a higher risk of experiencing gum disease. This is because of poor blood sugar management. Gum disease actually can cause a slight increase in blood sugar levels, which can make diabetes even harder to manage.

Why Does My Child Grind Her Teeth?

Many parents ask us: what’s up with my child grinding her teeth in her sleep? Tooth-grinding can make parents worry, but the problem is more common than most people think.