The history of tooth brushing

by: Sandy Johnson, RDH

Have you ever wondered how humans first got started brushing their teeth with fine bristles and using minty, sticky globs of toothpaste to get the job done?

There are many accounts on possible historical connections to the hygienic ritual we all do at least twice every day. We outlined some different sources here for you to decide!

According to some sources, toothbrush bristles were first invented in ancient times by the Chinese. This early version of the toothbrush was made from the necks of cold-weather pigs. There are also accounts of the Chinese using “chewing sticks,” which helped combat bad breath. According to sources, the first toothbrushes were that of the ancient Babylonians around 3500 BC who practiced tooth brushing by using frayed ends of twigs—ouch!

Over in Europe, French dentists were the first ones in their entire continent to promote the practice of tooth brushing in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. It is said that an English man, William Addis, invented the first household toothbrush.

The first American toothbrush hit the market around 1885. And, get ready for this gross fact: according to some sources, the act of tooth brushing didn’t take off until after World War II, when soldiers brought back the healthy habit.

The first electric-powered toothbrush was made in Switzerland in in 1939. In the year 1960, a company named Squibb put out the first electrical toothbrush in the US.

Now, what about toothpaste? According to some reports, toothpaste was used as early as 500 BC in China and India. But, the modern-day toothpaste you use now wasn’t developed until the 1800s.

Toothpaste may taste minty and fresh now. But imagine trying to come up with a formula. Early dentists experimented with soap, chalk, burnt egg shells, ox hooves, ashes and other now now-uncanny ingredients.

So, next time you brush your teeth, be happy it’s a comfortable and refreshing experience, without the twigs and eggshells! And don't forget to come see us!

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