Historical Facts About the Humble Toothbrush

Historical Facts About the Humble Toothbrush

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The best dentist in Palm Beach County encourages you to use it at least twice daily to keep your pearly whites healthy and cavity-free. While you know that your toothbrush plays a significant role in oral health, have you ever wondered about its history? We’ve compiled several historical facts about this humble tool. 

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Historical Facts You Should Know About Your Toothbrush 

The First Toothbrush Was a Stick 

Research shows that the first toothbrush used in Babylon, Egypt, and China was made of thin, frayed twigs. People used to twist and rub these “chew sticks” against their teeth to remove plaque and food particles from between them. Moreover, they used fragrant wood to ensure fresh breath.  

The First Toothbrush Bristles Were Made in China 

Around the 15th century, the Chinese folk decided to upgrade the traditional chew sticks by adding pig or boar hair as bristles. Thanks to their extra scouring effect, the bristles on the bamboo sticks were a huge hit. However, it wasn’t until the 17th century that boar bristle toothbrushes became incredibly popular in Europe.  

Over time, upper-class Europeans created alternatives to boar bristles, such as horsehair and custom badger hair. Instead of using wood sticks for brush models, they used toothbrushes made from ivory or bone.  

best dentist in Palm Beach County checks teeth of patient

A Prisoner Created the First Mass-Produced Toothbrush Prototype 

In 1770, an Englishman named William Addis was incarcerated for starting a riot. While in prison, Addis and the other prisoners cleaned their teeth with rags covered in salt or soot. He came up with a better solution by drilling holes into animal bones, stuffing bristles into the holes, and gluing them in place.  

After serving his prison sentence, Addis enhanced his toothbrush prototype and became the first commercial toothbrush manufacturer and seller. Records show that his sales reached over 1.8 million per year by 1927. 

The Three-Row Bristled Toothbrush Entered the Scene in 1844 

Although consumers had no complaints about toothbrushes made with single rows of bristles, manufacturers decided to produce toothbrushes that cover more surface area by replacing the typical toothbrush design with three rows of bristles. By 1844, everyone was using the new and improved commercial toothbrush. 

Artificial Bristles Replaced Natural Ones in 1938 

Over time, manufacturers discovered that artificial bristles were more comfortable and effective than traditional natural bristles. As a result, nylon bristles hit the scene in 1938. However, it wasn’t until WWII that U.S. soldiers popularized this new product when the military required them to carry and use nylon-bristled toothbrushes regularly. Although Americans back home were already brushing their teeth, the concept of toothbrushing with nylon bristles became a norm when WWII soldiers introduced this idea to the general public in the 1940s.   

An English Doctor Introduced the First “Electric” Toothbrush in 1880 

Dr. Scott, an Englishman, manufactured and sold the first “electric” toothbrush in 1880. Although he preferred to call them electric in all advertising, these devices weren’t really electric. Since these toothbrushes contained slightly magnetized iron rods in their handles, they didn’t require electricity.  

patient brushed teeth as suggested by the best dentist in Palm Beach County

Do You Need to See the Best Dentist in Palm Beach County? 

Smiles in the Gardens is committed to providing our patients with personalized care and a world-class dental experience. Our talented team is trained and experienced with many of the most advanced and effective procedures. Moreover, our dentists are members of several accredited dental organizations dedicated to helping you achieve a healthy and beautiful smile. Contact us today to make an appointment. 

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