A toothbrush is an object that is often taken for granted. It sits in the bathroom, waiting 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 takes us back thousands of years. Humans have been cleaning their teeth since 3500 BCE by chewing on sticks. These chewing sticks don’t look like a modern-day toothbrush, and it took historians until the 15th century to find a likeness. Humans have since transitioned from chewing sticks to electronic toothbrushes and modern oral health practices, but why?
In 3500 BCE, chewing sticks were created. They were simple thin twigs with frayed ends invented and used by ancient civilizations.
The exact date varies, but the bristle toothbrush was invented in China between 1223 and 1498. These toothbrushes were made using stiff, sturdy animal hairs, generally from a hog. They would carve tiny holes into bone or bamboo and insert the bristles, resembling our 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 early Chinese creation. Oral health was promoted and provided to the public for the first time. They stuck with this toothbrush design until the mid-1930s.
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, transforming oral health and showcasing nylon’s abilities to withstand frequent teeth cleaning. This invention 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 until soldiers returned from WWII. Soldiers were required to have a daily brushing and flossing regimen while in the army and many of them brought this routine home.
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 was appealing to customers since it didn’t require as much work to clean teeth.
With today’s Bluetooth capabilities and built-in timers, toothbrushes have evolved over the last few centuries. Where would we be today without the invention of the modern toothbrush?
*Updated November 2022