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The Creation of the Modern Toothbrush

Do you know how toothbrushes were created? Do you know who created them, or when they were invented? The answer takes us back thousands of years. Humans have been cleaning their teeth since 3500 BC, first by chewing on sticks. Babylon chewing sticks are the oldest oral health artifacts on record. These chewing sticks don’t look at all like a modern-day toothbrush, and it took historians until the 15th century to find a resemblance! Humans have since transitioned from chewing sticks to electronic toothbrushes and modern oral health practices, but why?

Toothbrush Timeline

In 3500 BC, chewing sticks were created. They were simply thin twigs with frayed ends invented and used by ancient civilizations.

The exact date varies, but the bristle toothbrush was invented in China between 1223 and 1498. These toothbrushes were made using stiff, sturdy animal hairs, generally from a hog. They would carve tiny holes into bone or bamboo and insert the bristles. These would actually resemble the shape of the modern-day toothbrush!

In 1780, William Addis of England created the first mass-produced toothbrush. They were made from cattle bone and tied swine fibers, similar to the early Chinese creation. For the first time, oral health was promoted and provided to the public. They stuck with this toothbrush design until the mid 1930s.

In 1935, the toothbrush industry was revolutionized by a chemist named Wallace Carothers.  He kicked off the transition from animal hair bristles to nylon bristles. This transformed oral health and showcased nylon’s abilities. It opened up nylon to countless other industrial applications for years to come.

The Electric Toothbrush

Even though toothbrushes had become mass-produced, they were not popularized until soldiers returned from WWII. They brought this habit home with them because they were required to have a daily brushing and flossing regimen while in the army.

In 1954, the first electronic toothbrush was invented. This toothbrush was created in Switzerland and brought convenience to the world of dental health. The creation of the electric toothbrush appealed to more people since it didn’t require nearly as much work or time.

With today’s Bluetooth capabilities and built-in timers, toothbrushes have certainly evolved over the last few centuries. Where would we be today without the invention of the modern toothbrush?