How Toothbrushes Have Changed Over Time

Red-handled modern-day manual toothbrush with white bristles against a powder blue background

From comfortable manual toothbrushes that come in all shapes and sizes to smart electric toothbrushes that can pick up on your brushing patterns, toothbrushes have come a long way since they were first invented in ancient times. Let’s take a look at how the toothbrush has evolved over time. 

Early Toothbrushes

3000 BC: Chew Sticks

Ancient peoples used long fibrous parts of sticks to properly clean their teeth before the invention of the modern toothbrush. Texts dating all the way back to 3000 BC mention the use of these chew sticks.

1498: Boar Bristles & Tooth Powders

In 1498, the Chinese invented a bristle toothbrush that looks more similar to ones we use today. These early toothbrushes used hog’s hair for bristles, with handles made from bone or bamboo. They were paired with tooth powders made of mint, ginger, and even crushed eggshells, charcoal, and soap!

1728: Introducing Modern Dentistry

In 1728, a French physician named Pierre Fauchard is credited with inventing modern dentistry techniques. Although there was old literature on dental health and care during Fauchard’s time, official "dentists" still didn’t exist. Because of this, he decided to do some of his own comprehensive research in the field of dentistry. The result was his book Le Chirurgien Dentiste, or, The Surgical Dentist. His findings and techniques paved the way for modern dentistry.

The Modern Toothbrush

1780: Bringing Back Boar Bristles

Fauchard’s writings on oral health sparked people's interest in preventing oral diseases. In 1780, an English man named William Addis was frustrated by the typical way of cleaning teeth using a salty, sooty rag, so he mass-produced a toothbrush made of boar bristles wired to bone, similar to the early Chinese brushes.

1903-1917: Improving Preventive Care

But the quality of toothbrushes and preventive care still had a long way to go. It wasn’t until 1903 when the field of dentistry changed to accommodate preventive dentistry, and 1917 when the first dental hygienist was licensed to practice in the United States.

1938: Nylon Bristles

In 1938, the first modern toothbrush with nylon bristles (as opposed to boar bristles!) was introduced to the market by DuPont de Nemours. A few years later, brushing one’s teeth twice a day became a standard practice to keep teeth healthy and clean.

Modern-Day: Advanced Technology

Today, it’s not uncommon to see electric toothbrushes with various functionalities and timers to make your brushing experience even more accurate than ever before. But even though toothbrushes have come a long way, it is still important to come see Dr. Peng twice a year for a professional cleanings and examinations to ensure that you’re keeping your teeth as healthy as possible. Be a part of history in the making and visit us at Moores Chapel Dentistry today. Contact us to schedule an appointment!


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