History of the Toothbrush

Many of us take for granted a simple invention that does so much to help maintain oral health: the toothbrush. Far from a mundane dental invention, the toothbrush has a deep and interesting history that belies its otherwise routine and ordinary use.

For centuries the toothbrush has been variously invented and enhanced by ancient civilizations, Chinese monks, prisoners, lone dentists, and large research corporations.

Early Toothbrushes: Simple yet Imaginative Inventions

While the first toothbrushes might not seem like radical inventions to us now, they nevertheless required great imagination.

The toothbrush has been used since 3500 B.C. by the Babylonians and Egyptians, who used to chew on one end until it was soft like a brush. It is thought that the Chinese used toothbrushes during the Tang Dynasty, or from around 600 A.D.

Very early toothbrushes were made from diverse and imaginative sources, such as:

  • Tree twigs
  • Bird feathers
  • Animal bones
  • And even Porcupine quills!

Did you know? The earliest use of the word “toothbrush” was in the autobiography of Anthony Wood.

Toothbrushes for All

The first mass-produced toothbrush was created in England, 1780. William Addis made the first toothbrush to be produced on a large scale in 1780. He had time to think about it during a stint in the cells in 1770, where he used a bone and some bristles from one of the guards to create a toothbrush. Upon his release, he founded the Wisdom Toothbrushes which produced his invention on a massive scale.

By 1840, toothbrushes were mass-produced in England, France, Germany, and Japan. However, it was not until 1885 that America began to mass-produce toothbrushes, even though the first patent was filed by H. N. Wadsworth in 1857. Even then, brushing teeth did not become a daily part of American life until after World War 2!

Did you know? The toothbrush was voted as the #1 invention most Americans could not live without in 2003.  But many Americans still don’t brush their teeth at least twice a day!

Modern Toothbrushes

In our modern era, there has been a proliferation of toothbrushes, which now come in diverse sizes and are made of different materials. Some toothbrushes are now environmentally friendly and made of biodegradable substances.

The Reach Toothbrush: Stretching Back to Advance Toothbrush Technology

Johnson & Johnson introduced the Reach Toothbrush in the 1980s, which had 3 important differences from previous versions of the toothbrush.  It was more like a dental instrument, with an angled head, able to clean the difficult to reach back teeth. Bristles were more closely concentrated, enabling Johnson & Johnson’s toothbrush to better clean the teeth. Finally, since the outer bristles were longer and softer than inner bristles, this particular brush could clean between teeth.

Electric Toothbrush: Modern Buzz

The electric toothbrush was first developed in 1954 in Switzerland by Dr. Philippe-Guy Woog. Known as the Broxodent, it was introduced at the centennial celebration of the American Dental Association in 1959. The Broxodent electric toothbrush was distributed in the United States from 1959 to 1990, and over 15 million have been sold worldwide.

Chewable Toothbrush: Chew On This!

While you certainly won’t reach for this toothbrush first thing in the morning or last thing at night, these are actually available.

Used mostly by travelers, these chewable toothbrushes often do not need water or toothpaste and are disposable. When the user chews on the toothbrush, the toothpaste and mouthwash is then released onto the bristles. Most are easily disposable, and some can even be used multiple times.

Toothbrushes for Braces

What is the best toothbrush to use for braces?

What kind of toothbrush should you use if you have braces?

With the rise of orthodontics these questions became more and more common, and were accompanied by a need for a toothbrush that could sufficiently clean between braces.  The most popular kind used for this sort of cleaning tends to be either an interdental brush or what is known as an “end-tufted” brush.

What type of toothbrush do you use?

When brushing your teeth, what type of toothbrush do you prefer to use? Let us know in the comments, via twitter, facebook, or our Google+ page!

POSTED IN: Toothbrush

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