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Brushing Through History: The Evolution of the Toothbrush

By Patrick Casey on March 04, 2017

A dental mirror and a toothbrushThe toothbrush has a fascinating history. That may sound surprising to you, but it's absolutely true. The toothbrush has a life that goes back thousands of years, which just goes to show how much humans have cared about having healthy and beautiful smiles.

The team at our Montreal restorative dentistry centre would like to take a moment to consider the history of the toothbrush and how this common household item has evolved over time.

The Chew Stick: Ancient Ancestor of the Toothbrush

You can trace the toothbrush all the way to 3500 BC. It wasn't a toothbrush as we know it today. The ancient ancestor of the toothbrush was an object known as a chew stick. Found in ancient Egypt and Babylon, the chew stick was a twig with a frayed end and a pointed end. The frayed end helped scrub teeth clean while the pointed end could be used to pick between the teeth.

Chew stick would undergo some innovation in China around 1600 BC. Rather than any old trig, the Chinese selected twigs from fragrant trees in order to improve the freshness of the breath while cleaning the teeth.

The Early Toothbrush: An Innovation in Tang Dynasty China

The first toothbrush in a recognizable form appeared during China's Tang Dynasty (619-917 AD). The early toothbrush consisted of a handle fashioned from bone or bamboo. The bristles on the brush were taken from the stiff hairs of Siberian hogs.

The Toothbrush Comes to Europe

As travel and trade connected cultures around the globe, the toothbrush would finally make its way to Europe. This occurred around the 1700s, with travelers and explorers bringing the toothbrush from abroad back to their homelands. Toothbrush designs would then be copied can made there.

The English were responsible for their share of toothbrush innovations. The first English toothbrush dates back to around 1780, with a cattle bone handle and pig hairs for bristles. By around 1844, the English toothbrush would features three rows of bristles to improve the ability to scrub and clean.

The Birth of the Modern Day Toothbrush

The toothbrush as we know it was born in 1938. Instead of using animal hair, the manufacturer used nylon for the bristles. A softer kind of nylon would be used on toothbrushes manufactured in the 1950s.

The Electric Toothbrush Is Born

In 1960, many musicians went electric. It's fitting that this is the decade that saw the birth of the electric toothbrush. This innovation was excellent for people who had problems moving a toothbrush in their own hand due to arthritis and other issues.

More Recent Innovations to Toothbrushes

Over the last few decades, changes in toothbrush design have typically involve minor changes to improve cleaning ability and reach. This includes angled handles, brushes in different patterns, and heads on brushes varying in size. It just goes to show how well-designed early toothbrushes were, we suppose. Changes today tend to be variations rather than attempts to remake what works right.

Contact Our Dental Care Center

For more information about advanced dental care and innovations in oral hygiene, contact our cosmetic and restorative dentistry center today. We will be more than happy to go over all of these matters with you in greater detail.

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Westmount Office

4695 Rue Sherbrooke O
Westmount, QC H3Z 1G2

Open Today 7:00am - 3:00pm

More Info Directions (514) 937-6558