What does a Chinese Emperor have in common with American WWII troops?
Both contributed to today’s growing field of dental hygiene.
The evolution of the toothbrush dates back as early as 3500 BC. Ancient Roman and Greek writings discuss primitive sticks that were chewed on to clean the mouth.
This soon evolved into a chew stick, a pencil sized stick with one end sharp and pointed, the other chewed into a brush-like shape.
On June 26th, 1498 the first “bristle” toothbrush was invented. A Chinese Emperor plucked the neck hairs of wild boars and hogs and inserted them into a bone, or bamboo handle.
This was brought to Europe, where the boar hair was substituted with horse hair. Many found the boar hair too stiff, and preferred the softer hair.
In England, William Addis was the first to mass produce these animal hair brushes around 1780. These had handles carved out of cattle bone. The hairs were placed in bored holes and kept in place by thin wire.
The first American patent was achieved by H.N. Wadsworth on November 7th 1857. They were mass produced in 1885.
This form of the toothbrush was used until 1938, when Dupont de Nemours invented the nylon toothbrush, marketed under the name of Doctor West’s Miracle Toothbrush. This was followed in 1944, when Dr. Meyer invented a handcrafted 3-row brush made of serrated bristles called the Pro-phy-lac-tic.
The toothbrush had not been widely used up until this point. Despite the new design, dental care was slow to catch on.
It wasn’t until soldiers began returning from World War II that the American public became concerned with oral hygiene. The soldiers were disciplined in using the toothbrush to maintain good health, while fighting the war. Influenced by the health factors, as well as the appearance of the teeth, the use of the toothbrush became an everyday part of life.
As with all great inventions, the toothbrush continued to evolve, each change searching for a better, more effective brush.
Only one year later the first electric toothbrush was offered in Switzerland, claiming better results and cleaning for less effort.
In America, the first electric toothbrush was marketed by a company called Squibb, under the name Broxodent in 1960. General Electric produced a rechargeable, cordless toothbrush the next year.
Hundreds of companies, both generic and brand name, continue to produce both manual and electric toothbrushes. It may require some research to pick the best toothbrush for you.