Every tool we use has a detailed and interesting history. The toothbrush is no exception. We use toothbrushes multiple times a day, often without a thought as to how this favorite dental tool originated and become what it is today.
The toothbrush has a long and unique history, dating back to ancient civilizations and finding its mass production beginnings in the unlikeliest of places. Want to learn a little more about the toothbrush? Read on to discover everything you’ve always wanted to know about your favorite dental hygiene tool.
The Chew Stick
The first instances of people using a tool to clean their teeth date back thousands of years, with many ancient civilizations using “chew sticks” to remove food particles from their teeth. These were typically thin sticks or twigs that were fraying at the end.
The First Toothbrush
The first toothbrush with bristles was invented by the Chinese during the Tang Dynasty from 619 to 907. It is believed to have been using hair from Siberian Hogs, animals which developed very coarse, tough hairs to withstand cold weather.
The first mass-produced toothbrush was actually made in a prison. In 1770, William Addis of England was jailed for inciting a riot. While in jail, Addis noticed other prisoners cleaning their teeth with rags covered in soot or salt. He saved and animal bone after dinner and obtained bristles from a guard. He then made holes in the bone and glued the bristles in place. After being released from prison, Addis updated the prototype he made in prison and started a toothbrush company which still exists in the United Kingdom.
No More Hog Hair
Animal hair was the primary material used for bristles until 1938 when the first nylon bristle toothbrush went on sale. This allowed toothbrushes to be mass-produced much easier and created a brush that was less likely to allow for the growth of bacteria compared to animal hair brushes.
Thank A Soldier
Brushing teeth didn’t become commonplace in the United States until after World War II! This is because soldiers in the war were required to brush their teeth each day. They brought this habit home with them and popularized the idea of brushing teeth, which we now know it a necessity for good dental health!
The Final Word
It’s incredible to look back on the storied history that toothbrushes have across the world. No matter what iteration of the toothbrush has been used, one thing is certain: civilizations hundreds, and even thousands, of years ago realized the importance of cleaning their teeth, a habit that is just as important today.