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The History of the Toothbrush—From Twigs to Turbo!

Last updated 4 years ago

The toothbrush plays a major role in one of the most common daily practices. Hopefully most parents are introducing their babies to the toothbrush, right from the eruption of the first baby tooth, and continuing to teach correct brushing techniques and habits through each phase of oral development. (See our past blog story on teaching tooth brushing.) We depend on our toothbrush and tooth brushing to not only prevent cavities, but serious gum disease, which can result in tooth loss. Lack of tooth brushing and proper oral care has also been associated with heart disease and shorter life expectancy.

Did you know that people actually started brushing their teeth in ancient times? Brushing teeth has been considered to be an important part of oral care as far back as ancient times. Even before 3000 BC, there is historical evidence that the ancient Egyptians constructed crude toothbrushes from twigs and leaves to clean their teeth. Other ancient cultures, such as the Greeks, Romans, and Indians also cleaned their teeth with twigs. Some would even fray one end of the twig (referred to as a “chew stick”) so that it could be used like thin bristles to get in between the teeth more effectively.

The bristle toothbrush, similar to the type used today, was not invented until 1498 in China. The bristles were made from stiff, coarse hairs taken from the back of a hog's neck and attached to handles made of bone or bamboo. Modern day tooth brushing, as a regular habit, became widespread in Europe from the end of the 17th century. The first mass-produced toothbrush was developed in 1780, by William Addis, of Clerkenwlad, England.

Though toothbrushes were available at the end of the 19th century in the United States, the practice did not become popular until World War II, when US soldiers were issued toothbrushes and required to brush during their military service. Toothbrushes were made of boar bristles until 1938, until nylon bristles were introduced by Dupont. The first electric toothbrush to come on the scene in America was in 1960, and was marketed by the Squibb company.

Park View's Point of View

Like all that we do at Park View Pediatric Dentistry we want our young patients to develop a positive attitude toward the toothbrush and brushing their teeth.  

Here are a few ways that we promote fun toothbrush usage:

1. At Park View Pediatric Dentistry, we think big with giant, colorful toothbrushes at our office, used to teach proper bushing techniques. We have stuffed animals in each of our exam rooms with a full set of chompers. Children enjoy brushing those animal’s teeth with our instructions and oversized toothbrushes. We believe that this is a fun introduction to early toothbrush usage and oral education.

2. We always include a new colorful toothbrush in the “goodie bag” that each child receives at the end of their visit to Park View Pediatric Dentistry. Each toothbrush is carefully selected according to the young patient’s age group.

3. Throughout the year we offer several promotions or introductory specials where we give away a new battery powered “electric” toothbrush. (Appropriate for age eight or older). Parents appreciate this special gift and how it supercharges brushing enthusiasm.

4. We stress that although we want your toothbrush to be our patient’s best friend, it should never become an old friend. We encourage changing the toothbrush every three months.

Happy brushing!

Contact us at:

Park View Pediatric Dentistry

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All content and information are of an unofficial nature and are not intended to be interpreted as dental advice.
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