Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Invention of the Toothbrush

I love research. While gathering information on another topic, I ran across this information about the toothbrush and decided it would make an interesting blog topic. I shudder to think what life would be like without a toothbrush but in one of my books a cowboy who forgot his used a frayed stick to clean his teeth so I guess I would make do. As a child I can remember cleaning my teeth with baking soda at my grandmothers as that's what she used. It's not one of my favorite memories but it did the trick.

Here's a little of what I learned.

Before toothbrushes people in Egypt and Babylonia used "chew sticks", a frayed twig usually made from an aromatic tree, to clean their teeth and freshen their breath.

The first tooth brush can be attributed to the Chinese in around 1498. It was described as having a cattle-bone handle embedded with Siberian pig hair bristles.

The picture below is a stickbrush formed from a tree branch. This photo is shown on the American Dental Association website.

The first mass produced toothbrush was invented around 1770 in Newgate Prison by convict William Addis. Bored, William spent his time thinking of ways to make a living when released. Care of teeth at the time consisted of rubbing the teeth with a rag or sponge, sometimes dipped in sulfer oil, or chalk or salt as an abrasive. He decided this wasn't affective. After some thought, he bored tiny holes in a small bone, remains from his previous meal. He obtained some bristles from the jailer, inserted the bristles into the holes, tied a knot, and applied glue to hold them securely in place. The first tooth brush was born.

In America H. N. Wadsworth received the first patent for his toothbrush. Mass production didn't begin in America until 1885.

Boar bristles were used in toothbrushes until 1938 when nylon bristles were introduced by Dupont de Nemours. This toothbrush was called Doctor West's Miracle Toothbrush. The disciplined hygiene habits of WW II soldiers greatly influenced Americans about good oral hygiene.

In 1960 one of the first electric toothbrushes, Broxodent, was sold by the Squibb company.

The above information can be found on

Thanks for reading.



Tanya Hanson said...

Fantastic blog, Linda! I sometimes wonder about all those personal and sanitary items we so take for granted...how it "worked" way back when! Good stuff.


Kathy Otten said...

Hi Linda,
This is a wonderful example of what's fun about research. And whats fun about reading historicals. I had my hero pick up some toothpowder in one of my stories, but that's about as close as I got to having him brush. Thanks for sharing the info.

Skhye said...

Love this! I always knew about the twigs but never cared enough to research the historical aspect of what we use as a toothbrush. I guess I never had to write about one. ;) And I just ordered WHEN THE OCTILLO BLOOM. Can't wait to read it! :)

Mary Ricksen said...

Interesting. So crest wasn't always there?
Thanks for the unique information!

Lauri said...

Great post! I had searched this subject for Badland Bride where the heroine accidentally time travels and couldn't live without a toothbrush.

franco said...

I guess I never had to write about one. ;) And I just ordered WHEN THE OCTILLO BLOOM. Can't wait to read it!
I saw your page when I was in a meeting of interested me much sildenafil citrate

Elizabeth said...

Hey Linda!

I love your blogpost about the invention of toothbrush! It is so cool and informative!

Today, brushing regularly is a must to among of us. For sure all of us doesn't want to have cavity build-up. Aside from brushing, we floss after eating and we gargle a mouthwash to totally clean germs. In order to monitor my oral health, I never miss any appointment with my dentist Libertyville (IL)-based). Here in Libertyville, dentists are really professional and friendly so it would be easier for you to ask all your dental concerns.