Toothbrush: A History

woman brushing her teeth
The modern toothbrush has been specifically designed to enable us to effectively care for our smiles. However, the toothbrush as we know it today was not invented until 1938. Let’s take a look at how the toothbrush evolved over time.

Teeth-cleaning tools appeared as early as 3500-3000 BC. In Babylon and Egypt, people used twigs with frayed ends to clean their teeth. These sticks were rubbed against the teeth. In China in about 1600 BC, chewing sticks were developed from aromatic tree twigs. These chewing sticks were used to freshen breath.

In the 1400s, the Chinese attached bristles from pigs’ necks to a handle made from bone or bamboo to brush their teeth. The toothbrush design changed slightly as this idea migrated to Europe. The Europeans preferred using horsehairs instead of pig bristles because they are softer. Other variations on the toothbrush in Europe used feathers. Around 1780, a toothbrush of more modern design was invented by William Addis in England. This toothbrush was also the first mass-produced toothbrush. The handle was carved from cattle bone and the brush still used swine bristles.

Boar bristles were used for toothbrushes until 1938, when nylon bristles were invented by Dupont de Nemours. The first toothbrush with nylon bristles was called Doctor West’s Miracle Toothbrush. During World War II, soldiers had very disciplined hygiene habits. Americans were influenced by this and became more concerned with practicing good oral hygiene. Because of this, the nylon toothbrush became more popular.

Today, toothbrushes come in many varieties. Both manual and electronic toothbrushes are available. Generally, the handles are made from molded plastic in varying designs. The nylon bristles come in differing levels of softness.

For more information and to schedule an appointment with our dentist in Lebanon, Oregon, contact Smiles Dental today. Dr. Dr. Quinn Martin and our team are happy to answer any questions you may have.