It’s something you never think about. You’ve been using it since before you could talk. It’s just part of your life—your toothbrush.
But have you ever wondered what people did before the colorfully designed bristle-stick was invented? I mean, YUCK. To think about not having a toothbrush!
But, believe it or not, having a clean mouth has been a top concern for centuries. Let me take you back…
Some sources state that the first toothbrush can be dated back to 3000 BC. In Babylonia, 3500 BC, chew sticks were used as toothbrushes. Chew sticks are frayed on one end, for cleaning teeth, and pointed on the other end to use like a toothpick. In fact, these are still common in some parts of Africa and the rural southern United States. Greeks and Romans also used toothpicks and toothpick-like twigs.
First Modern Toothbrush
The first modern toothbrush was made of a bamboo or bone handle and a hog bristle head. According to the Library of Congress, this was invented in China in 1498.
Several centuries later, in 1780, William Addis invented the first massed-produced toothbrush. Addis, after causing a mass riot and being sent to prison, created this early design. He wanted to clean his teeth, and made a way to do just that. When he was released from prison, he sold his invention to the masses, and became a very rich man.
In 1857, U.S. citizen H.N. Wadsworth was the first to patent a toothbrush. His design was usually made of a bone handle (though sometimes wood or ivory) and boar hair bristles—just like those invented in China in the 15th century. Mass production of his brush did not begin until 1885.
The Toothbrush We Know Today
The problem with boar bristles was that they held on to bacteria, did not dry well, and fell out easily. So, enter the modern-day toothbrush, made of a celluloid handle and nylon bristles. This recent design came from DuPont in 1938, with the first sale on February 24th of that year.
Along with the modern toothbrush came a modern concept of ‘dental hygiene.’ During WWII, soldiers were required to brush their teeth every day out of concern for their health. Thus, came the new ‘normal’ for caring for our teeth.