Have you ever wondered when people first started brushing their teeth, with a toothbrush that is? Our early ancestors did not have the luxury of toothpaste and electric cleaning tools, but they probably made do any way they could. Fortunately, modern living has given us a way to maintain proper oral hygiene. To keep bacteria in its place and to avoid getting nasty diseases like gingivitis, tooth decay and many others that can potentially lead to worse conditions, using your trusty toothbrush, at least twice a day, is recommended by dental professionals, including your local dentist. So who was the first person to invent this handy tooth cleaning device, and how, over time, did they develop it into the fancy ones most of us own today?
Origins of the Toothbrush
You may be surprised to know that the first toothbrush was actually used centuries ago by the Chinese, although archaeologists have traced remnants in Africa that date back to well over a millennium ago. However, it is worth noting that the bristle brush that we tend to think of today was first developed by the Chinese; the bristles they used consisted of the hairs off of hog hides. While certainly not the most sanitary option, it probably did much to minimize plaque and tartar buildup. The handles of early toothbrushes were made from a variety of materials, including the bones of animals, as well as twigs and sticks. In this sense, the latter were probably more adept at cleaning the teeth due to their greater flexibility. Any dentist will tell you that a rigid-handled toothbrush is not the best choice, as it limits mobility that is needed to thoroughly clean the mouth. It is difficult to say whether people from long ago were aware of this, but the historical evidence may prove otherwise. The Toothbrush Trade As you might expect, the idea of the modern toothbrush was thus transmitted into Western culture when Europeans first had contact with those living in the East. Early explorers were intrigued by the many technological developments they were presented with, and they essentially took these ideas back with them to their homelands. You might say that the toothbrush was the first mass-produced commodity to be imported into Europe. The demand for toothbrushes was high at the time, particularly due to an increased emphasis being placed on personal hygiene. The age of Enlightenment led many people to encapsulate all that was deemed modern; it might be one small component of the larger developments occurring in the world at the time, but the toothbrush was by all means a very popular tool. The Development of the Modern Toothbrush Europeans quickly refined toothbrush technology; the first person to patent the idea was H.N. Wadsworth in 1885, which is likely due to the fact that the term “toothbrush” was not actually coined until just a few decades prior. Manufacturers also replaced the animal hair bristles with synthetic fibers, as these were more hygienic. In time, leading product companies like Johnson & Johnson began developing more advanced toothbrushes, including the electric versions that are commonplace today. In a nutshell, that is how the toothbrush was created. We should all thank those before us for recognizing the importance of dental health!