Invention of the Toothbrush

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The toothbrush has its origins in the chewing sticks of Babylonia as early as 3500 BC. Ancient Greek and Roman literature discusses the use of toothpicks, which were used to keep the mouth clean.

Over the years the toothpick evolved into a chewstick, which was the size of a pencil. Records from China around 1600 BC show that one end was chewed until it became brush-like and the other end was pointed and used as a toothpick. The twigs used for this purpose were from aromatic trees and freshened the mouth, as well as cleaned it.

The first bristled toothbrush also originates from China at around the same time and was brought back to Europe by traders. It was made from hairs from the neck of the Siberian wild boar, which were fixed to a bamboo or bone handle. In Europe, where very few people brushed their teeth, it was found that wild boar hairs were too stiff and made the gums bleed, so horse hair, which was softer, was used instead. It was still more customary in Europe to use a toothpick after meals, made of a goose feather, silver or copper.

Around 1780, William Addis of Clerkenald, England, made his first toothbrush and in the 19th Century his descendants developed and mass-manufactured fine toothbrushes. The handles were carved out of cattle bones and the bristles were made from wild boar or horse hair. These toothbrushes were in general use in Europe by the early 1800s. In 1857 America entered the toothbrush market when H. N. Wadsworth was awarded the first patent in America for their production.

In 1937 nylon was invented by Wallace H Carothers in the Du Pont Laboratories in the USA and is was first applied to the toothbrush in 1938: Dr West’s miracle toothbrush with nylon bristles.

In 1939 the first electric toothbrush was produced in Switzerland, but didn’t appear on the open market until the 1960s. It appeared on the American market, produced by Squibb and was called Broxodent. The first cordless rechargeable electric toothbrush was introduced by General Electric at the same time. However, it wasn’t until 1987 that the rotary action electrical toothbrush appeared in the shops.

Source: BBC