Jan 6

The Long and Remarkable History of the Toothbrush

History of the Toothbrush - Mountain View, CA

by Patrick F. McEvoy, DDS
Tagged with: General Dentistry

A dentist mirror and toothbrushPatients who visit our Mountain View restorative dentistry center know that we love to share stories about the latest innovations in dental care. We also like to look at the history of dentistry since it provides some unique perspective on where the field started and where it is today.

Take the toothbrush, for example. Its history goes back thousands of years. This item we take for granted has a much more interesting story than you may think.

The Chewstick: The Forerunner to the Toothbrush

We can trace the earliest ancestor of the toothbrush to ancient times. Rather than a handle with bristles, the original toothbrush was just a stick. A chewstick, to be more precise.

Chewsticks date back to 3500-3000 BC. They were used by Egyptians and Babylonians to clean their teeth. One end of the chewstick was frayed for brushing, while the other end of the chewstick was sharpened, acting like a rudimentary toothpick.

In 1600 BC, the Chinese would innovate the chewstick. Their chewsticks were made of aromatic twigs that helped freshen the breath from use.

The Early Toothbrush: Tang Dynasty China (619-907 AD)

China is thought to be the originator of the first toothbrush. It dates back to the Tang Dynasty. These early toothbrushes had a handle made of bone or bamboo. The bristles on these toothbrushes were made from the coarse bristles from Siberian hogs.

The Toothbrush Comes to Europe

The toothbrush would not make its way to Europe until the 16th or 17th century. The arrival of the toothbrush is thanks to European travelers who went to China and brought them back to their homelands. Europeans later made their own toothbrushes, using horse hair for bristles rather than hog bristles.

The first English toothbrush was crated in 1780, with a handle made from cattle bone and bristles taken from pigs. A three-row bristle design was developed in 1844 for better cleaning results.

The Birth of the Modern Toothbrush

The toothbrush as we know it today was born in the 20th century. It was manufactured in 1938, with nylon bristles rather than animal hair. In the 1950s, softer bristles would be used for toothbrushes to make cleaning the teeth much more gentle.

Plugged In: The Electric Toothbrush

The toothbrush would eventually go electric in the 1960s. These electric toothbrushes made it easier for people to brush their teeth, particularly if they suffered from arthritis or other conditions that affected grip and hand strength.

Additional Innovations and Changes

Over the years, the toothbrush has made stayed generally the same, though it's modified itself in small ways. There are different bristle patterns, for instance, and handles may be angled for better reach and grip. The lack of major innovation perhaps just goes to show how well designed the toothbrush was when it became a common household item around the world.

Learn More About Advanced Dental Care

To learn more about advanced dental care treatments and how you can have a beautiful smile, be sure to contact our cosmetic and restorative dentistry center today. Our team looks forward to your visit and helping you achieve excellent dental health.

Locate Us

Patrick F. McEvoy, DDS, FAGD

(650) 969-2600

Email Us