One of the most common household items in the world is the toothbrush. From expensive electric toothbrushes with variable speed settings and controls to basic toothbrushes that are nothing more than a handle and bristles, we have them in our home but may not realize just how far back they date. Here is a brief history of the toothbrush and how it has evolved throughout the years:
Before the toothbrush existed as we know it people were still maintaining basic hygiene. Instead of a toothbrush, though, items known as chewing sticks were used to take care of teeth. Dating as far back as 3500 BC, chewing sticks have been found all over the world. Chew sticks were created by taking a twig from a fragrant tree and fraying the ends that could be chewed on to freshen breath. Evidence has also been found that in some areas of China charcoal created from bamboo was used as a way of cleaning teeth.
The First Toothbrushes
Chew sticks have been found in China as early as 1600 BC but it took thousands of years before the first bristled toothbrush to be created. Toothbrushes that contain bristles have been found that date back to the late 1490s. The bristles, made out of hair from the back of a pig, were attached to long bamboo handles.
As trading took place between Europe and China, the basic principles of this design were brought West from China where old toothbrushes became popular. Europeans often chose to use horsehair when creating toothbrushes because the bristles were softer.
By 1844, toothbrushes had started to take more shape into what we know them as now. Handles were carved out of bone or wood and bristles began to be designed with rows for more efficient teeth cleaning. It wasn’t until 1938 that the first modern style toothbrushes came to be, however.
Before the 1900s, all toothbrushes were made with animal hair as their bristles. In 1935, things changed when Wallace Carothers discovered how to produce Nylon while working at DuPont. By 1938 the process of Nylon manufacturing resulted in the first synthetic bristled toothbrush. With soft Nylon bristles, modern toothbrushes became popular and paved the way for toothbrushes as we know them today.