The creation of the modern toothbrush

A toothbrush is something most people take for granted. It sits in the bathroom to be used twice a day. How much do you know about the history of the modern toothbrush? Do you know who created them, or when they were invented?

The answer goes back thousands of years. Humans have been cleaning their teeth since 3500 BCE, first by chewing on sticks. 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!

Toothbrush timeline

The chewing sticks used as early as 3500 BCE were simply thin twigs with frayed ends invented and used by ancient civilizations.

The bristle toothbrush was invented in China between 1223 and 1498. These toothbrushes were made using stiff, sturdy animal hairs, generally from a hog. Tiny holes were carved into bone or bamboo and the bristles inserted, resembling the shape of the modern-day toothbrush!

In 1780, William Addis of England created the first mass-produced toothbrush. It was made from cattle bone and tied swine fibers, similar to the earlier Chinese creation. For the first time, oral health was promoted and provided to the public.

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 nylon to countless other industrial applications for years to come.

The electric toothbrush

Even though toothbrushes had become mass-produced, they were not popularized in the United States 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 oral health be today without the invention of the modern toothbrush?