Toothbrush History

Story of toothbrush evolution

Ever wondered how our ancestors brushed their teeth? Did they even brush? Well, the history and evolution of toothbrush is quite fascinating. In this section we will cover some interesting facts and the story of evolution of the toothbrush; how it has evolved from a mere tree twig to an electronic apparatus.


Ancient toothbrush; when and where

The earliest toothbrush has been reported to be used in china at around 1600 B.C. as documented in Chinese scriptures. At a place named Sumer in Mesopotamia, toothbrushes came into light at around 3000 B.C. from an Egyptian tomb. However, the toothbrush in ancient times hardly resembled the bristled one as seen today. They were called chewsticks, twigbrush or woodmop and were made by chewing one end of a twig, harvested from medicinal and aromatic trees which had antibacterial properties and simultaneously freshened the breath, until the fibres of the twig came apart to form a frayed edge. This frayed edge was then rubbed over teeth to remove debris.

In fact, Greeks and Romans used toothpicks instead of these chewsticks, which have also been sourced from the Qin dynasty tombs, supporting the evidence of use of toothpick like toothbrush around that time.


Materials that made the toothbrush bristle in the olden days.

The bristled toothbrush came into existence during the Tang dynasty in china; consisting of bristles made out of hog hair attached to a stick made of wood, bamboo or animal bone.

This bristled toothbrush design migrated to Europe along with the travelers and became a popular oral hygiene instrument although with the changes since, Europeans preferred a softer bristle made of horse hair over coarse hog hair bristles.

Sometimes the toothbrush was made of bird feathers bristle and there are evidences of even the porcupine spines being used as toothbrush bristle.


Who invented the toothbrush as we know it today?

The modern toothbrush was not in use until William Addis from Clerkenwald, England, invented the design of the bristled toothbrush while in jail in the year 1770 and mass-produced the design in 1780; named the toothbrush ‘Wisdom Toothbrush’. But the design still consisted of naturally sourced bristles of animal hair from horse, pig and badger. The quality of the bristle was the deciding factor for pricing the toothbrush.

The nylon bristles were invented by Dupont in 1938 and thus, the modern toothbrush came into existence.

Some interesting facts about toothbrush

  • The earliest toothbrush used to be the index finger while soot acted as toothpaste.
  • The first patent for toothbrush design was granted to H.N.Wadsworth on Nov 7, 1857 in U.S.A.
  • Mass production of toothbrush started in America in 1885.
  • Brushing daily gained popularity only after World War II since the American soldiers were encouraged to maintain proper oral hygiene which caught momentum with the general masses.
  • The first electric toothbrush, the Broxodent, was invented in Switzerland in 1954 by Dr. Philippe-guy Woong.
  • In 1977, Johnson and Johnson developed their own toothbrush design with an angled head to reach difficult areas, a greater bristle density and the outer bristles were longer than central ones for effective cleaning in between the teeth. It was called ‘Reach toothbrush’.

The fundamental point that comes to light here is that oral hygiene was as important for our ancestors as is for us today. Therefore, we should learn from our ancestors and be vigilant in maintaining healthy teeth and gums for our overall well-being so as to live our lives to the fullest.