It’s something that you use every day, twice a day, but do you know where it comes from? The history of the toothbrush is a fascinating story. There were many other tooth cleaning methods used before the toothbrush made it’s debut and few of them resembled anything like we what know today as the “toothbrush”. Read on to learn more than you ever wanted to know about the toothbrush!
Before The Brush
The toothbrush as we know it, didn’t always exist. That doesn’t mean that humans weren’t trying to keep their teeth clean, however. Early humans would find just about anything to rub on their teeth or find something sharp to remove food particles from between the teeth. History shows that tree twigs, bird feathers, and porcupine quills were all very common his the history of tooth cleaning.
The first significant advance in tooth cleaning came with the “chew stick” The chew stick were simply twigs with a frayed end, specifically used to remove plague from teeth. Chew sticks were discovered as early as 3500 BC in Babylonia and have been found across the globe including Egypt, China, and Africa.
The Toothbrush As We Know It
The discovery of the “modern toothbrush” is credited to the Tang Dynastry in China between the years 619 and 907. The bristles were actually taken from hogs that lived in the Northern parts of China or Siberia. The hogs were exposed to colder temperatures which made the bristles more firm and rigid. The handle of the brush was formed with either bone or bamboo, depending on which material was more readily available.
In 1223, Japanese Zen master Dogen Kigen saw months in China cleaning their teeth with horse-tail bristles. He brought this invention back to China, which then led to the spread of the toothbrush throughout Europe.
It wasn’t until 1780 when toothbrushes were mass produced for the general public. The credit goes to William Addis of England who actually honed his idea for the toothbrush while spending time in prison for causing a riot. After his release, he started a company that produced and sold his toothbrush, providing himself a fortune.
As you probably know by what is currently on the market, the toothbrush has come a long way since hog’s hair and bone handles. Most toothbrush bristles are made with nylon and are shaped in a way to provide specialization and optimized results. Additionally, we have to refer to the regular toothbrush as a “manual” toothbrush, because technology has led to such advancements as the electric toothbrush which can do the same amount of work in a fraction of the time.
The Future of the Toothbrush
It’s only logical to think about more advancements in the toothbrush that we will see in the future. With how quickly technology changes, it’s not unreasonable to imagine a major advancement in toothbrushes in our lifetime. The toothbrush is often overlooked in it’s simplicity and daily use, but in January 2003, it was named the number one invention that Americans could not live without.
Dr. Mike Mavrostomos is passionate and top-quality comprehensive care dentist located in Bedminster, NJ whose continual pursuit of education and state-of-the-art dentistry has led to his being recognized as one of New Jersey’s Top Dentists by the New Jersey Top-Docs committee. Check out our website, reviews, & Facebook page. Connect with us and learn!