The History of the Toothbrush

Dr. Sandras and our friendly dental team in Larose, LA want to be your go-to resource for all things dental... and that includes fun dental history and trivia, too! You may use a toothbrush every day (we hope!), but did you know its long and fascinating history? The history of the toothbrush is longer than you might think! Though toothbrushes as we know them today have only existed since about 1938, people have long been concerned about dental hygiene.

The earliest toothbrush-like tool was actually called a chew stick and was basically a twig with a frayed end to brush against the teeth. The other end of the twig was used as a toothpick. These chew sticks were discovered as early as 3500 BC in Babylonia.

The development of a bristle toothbrush is credited to the Chinese who are believed to have invented them around the 15th century using bristles from pigs' necks. The handle was either bone or bamboo. As the Chinese traveled into Europe, they introduced their bristled toothbrushes and they became widely used by the 17th century. In 1690, a European named J. Barret began to manufacture toothbrushes with horsehair because he found the hog bristle to be too rough. These horse or boar bristled brushes were used into the 20th century.

As the desire for improved oral health continued, old methods once thought effective were replaced. In the 1700's many people thought rubbing a rag with soot and salt on the teeth was effective. However, one man named William Addis of England determined this method was not working. He began a business manufacturing bristle brushes by drilling holes into a piece of animal bone, tied tufts of hair through the holes, then sealed them with glue. His family owned business was passed down for generations until 1996.

With the invention of nylon, modern toothbrushes came into being in 1938. By the 1950's a softer nylon had been introduced and many people preferred these. By 1954, Broxodent introduced the first electric toothbrush.

As primitive toothbrushes were replaced by modern, more effective toothbrushes, it became increasingly important to design a brush that would effectively reach and clean teeth. In 1980, Johnson & Johnson introduced the "Reach" toothbrush. It was innovative because it was specifically designed to clean between teeth and reach back teeth more easily. Because of the design, it became easier for people to maintain good oral hygiene.

In 2003, it was even selected as the number one invention Americans couldn't live without. As simple as the toothbrush may seem, the history of this simple device has made it possible for the average person to maintain good oral hygiene with simplicity and ease.

Has all this talk of toothbrushes reminded you that you're due for your next dental appointment? Contact Dr. Sandras today to schedule a visit at our Larose, LA dental office!

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