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The History of the Toothbrush Goes Back Further Than You Think

By William Stofer on November 22, 2016


A woman with a toothbrushThe team at our Warsaw dental practice believes that effective general dentistry comes back to the basics. That means regular dental visits, regular brushing, and regular flossing. By practicing basic oral hygiene, you can prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and so many other dental health problems.

Many patients take their toothbrush for granted. We don't mean that they do not brush their teeth enough, necessarily. No, we mean that many people don't realize where the toothbrush came from. Let's offer a brief and by no means comprehensive history lesson.

Meet the Early Toothbrush: The Chew Stick

Long before nylon bristles, angled handles, and special shapes and patterns, the toothbrush's ancestor was just a stick. Known as a chew stick, one end of this stick was frayed like a rudimentary brush and was used to help polish the teeth. The other end of the chew stick was pointed and could be used like a toothpick. Chew sticks could be found in 3500-3000 BCE, used by Babylonians, Egyptians, and other cultures in the region.

In 1600 BCE, there was a slight innovation on the chew stick. People in China used sticks from fragrant or aromatic trees to fashion chew sticks. This helps freshen the breath in addition to removing food particles and plaque.

The Ancient Chinese Toothbrush

Most people credit the Chinese with the creation of the toothbrush in a form similar to one we use today. The invention tooth place during the Tang Dynasty (619-907 AD). For this early toothbrush, the handle would be fashioned out of bamboo or bone. The bristles on the toothbrush were taken from the coarse hair of Siberian hogs. Other variations on this toothbrush used hair from horses instead.

The Toothbrush in Europe

As the world began to become more interconnected, Europeans of the 16th and 17th centuries brought Chinese toothbrushes back to their homelands. Europeans adapted this design, creating their own toothbrushes using horse hair.

The first toothbrush in England was made in 1780 by William Addis. His toothbrush had a cattle bone handle and bristles taken from pigs. In 1844, a three-row design was used for the placement of toothbrush bristles to improve the cleaning results.

The Birth of the Modern Toothbrush

The toothbrush as we know it today made its debut in 1938. Instead of using animal hair or coarse animal bristles, this toothbrush used far more sanitary nylon. Mass production was a snap thanks to this synthetic breakthrough. Soft nylon would be used for bristles during the 1950s.

The Birth of the Electric Toothbrush

The toothbrush would undergo another innovation in the 1960s. That's when the toothbrush went electric. Now people who had arthritis or problems with grip and hand mobility could clean their teeth with ease.

Subtle Changes in Design Over the Decades

Since the 1960s, changes to the toothbrush have been minor, all things considered. The shape of the toothbrush head has changed to help reach hard-to-access parts of the mouth. Handles often contain curves and textured grips. Bristle patterns are often varied and include different directions and lengths.

This just goes to show how efficient the toothbrush is at doing its job. Perhaps a new innovation will occur in the coming years. When it does, we will happily discuss it.

Learn More About Advanced Dental Health Issues

For more information about general dental care concerns and how you can have the healthiest smile possible, be sure to contact our cosmetic and restorative dentistry center today. We will help you achieve total wellness.

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