This blog is ‘light and easy’ after the rich holiday season. We have lots of teachers in our practice, and one of them asked our hygienist Rena about the history of the toothbrush. Rena put in a lot of research for her answer; so all credit goes to her for this great blog.
(By the way, January 1st is a great time to break open a new toothbrush).
The first identified toothbrush dates back to the year 3000BC. A twig was frayed between the teeth to create a splayed “brush”. This ‘chewstick’ was then used between the teeth and chewed on. The use of twigs and sticks continued for many hundreds of years.
In the early 1700’s the use of rubbing rags with soot and salt on the teeth was a common tooth brushing method. For many years, the use of hair from a variety of animals including horse, boar, and bird feathers was common. Unfortunately, many people poked their gums with these hairs and developed infections, which led to tooth loss! Not really an effective method for overall oral health!
William Addis of England thought of the idea of taking a small animal bone and drilling holes into it. He then tied bristles together to form tufts, and put the tufts into the holes, and glued them in. By 1840 mass production of toothbrushes was common in England, Germany, and Japan. Pig bristle was common material for the cheaper versions, while badger hair was considered high-end material for the wealthy.
It was not until 1885 that the toothbrush was mass-produced in the U.S. It was actually not common practice to brush one’s teeth until WWII, when American soldiers were required to brush their teeth to avoid undo medical concerns in the field.
By 1938 DuPont developed the nylon bristle that is commonly used today. The first electric toothbrush was invented in 1954 in Switzerland. And ever since, companies have been making variations of the manual and electric brushes that are now common.
Whether manual or electric, remember to keep the bristles soft and use the right technique. It’s in the way you use it that makes all the difference in the world.
Now, Eat, Drink , Be Merry, and celebrate the New Year (just remember to brush)!