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The History of the Toothbrush is More Interesting Than You Think

By Kenneth Malament on November 11, 2016

A toothbrush with some toothpasteHere at Boston Prosthodontics, we enjoy answering all questions we get from patients. It's one way we can educate people on dental care innovations and various ways of enhancing dental health and wellness. This goes for restorative dentistry procedures as well as the origins of objects and practices that people take for granted.

With this in mind, we want to take a moment to consider the history of the toothbrush. It centuries-old origins are more fascinating than you may realize.

The First Toothbrush: Meet the Chew Stick

The first toothbrush wasn't anything like the object we use today. The ancestor of the toothbrush was known as a chew stick. These chew sticks were frayed twigs that could be used to brush the teeth. The opposite end of the chew stick was often sharpened and could be used as a toothpick.

These chew sticks date back to 3500 BC and were found in different cultures of the ancient world, including Egypt and Babylon. Around 1600 BC, the Chinese tooth the chew stick a step further, using twigs from fragrant trees in order to improve the breath while cleaning teeth.

China Credited with Early Toothbrushes

The first proper toothbrush as we know it was used during the Tang Dynasty in China (619-907 AD). This first toothbrush consisted of a handle fashioned from bamboo or bone. The bristles on this toothbrush were made of hog bristles imported from Siberia. Later Chinese toothbrushes would use horse hair.

The Toothbrush Comes to Europe

European travelers who visited China brought the toothbrush back to the western world in the 16th and 17th century. The first European toothbrush was made in 1780, with a cattle bone handle and pig bristles. A three-row bristle design would be developed in 1844, for greater cleaning ability and effectiveness.

The Modern Toothbrush Is Born in the USA

The modern toothbrush as we know it today was made by DuPont in 1938. Rather than using animal hair, nylon bristles were used. This was far more sanitary, and easier to mass produce. Softer nylon bristles would be introduced in the 1950s, improving oral hygiene practices in the process.

The Electric Toothbrush in the 1960s

The last major innovation (relatively speaking) in the history of the toothbrush was the invention of the electric toothbrush. The electric toothbrush debuted on the market in the 1960s, allowing people to polish their teeth more effectively, particularly if they had problems with grip or hand strength.

New Variations on the Modern Toothbrush

In the decades since the 1960s, changes have been made to the modern toothbrush design. This includes different sizes for the head, variations on bristle pattern, handles of different angles, and so forth. While these innovations have been interesting, they are essentially slight changes on an optimally utilitarian design.

It's not clear what the future might hold for daily oral hygiene, though it should be interesting to see what dental care experts and health specialists come up with next.

Contact Our Team of Dental Care Specialists

To learn more about various topics related to dental health and wellness, be sure to contact our cosmetic and restorative dentistry center today. The Boston Prosthodontics team will work closely with you to help ensure the best results and optimal dental wellness.

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Boston, MA 02114

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