Toothbrush Wonder Questions – History?

Published by Taurai on

Have you ever wondered, at some point in your life, perhaps while brushing your teeth, when and who discovered the toothbrush?

Probably yes, I presume. However, where your questions followed by answers or you just drifted into an endless mind loop like a jammed tape on a radio. Alas, worry not, we are now going to know a little bit of the genesis of toothbrushes.

Now, a toothbrush by definition is an oral hygiene instrument used to clean the teeth, gums, and tongue. As we shall discover, its evolution has taken different shapes and materials. Tooth hygiene and cleaning dates as far back as 3500BC.

As is the case, especially for the ‘chew stick’, the predecessor of the conventional toothbrushes we see nowadays. The ‘chew stick’ was simply made of a small stick with frayed ends, to mimic a brush. These were common among the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans. And are believed to be the oldest Oral hygiene artifacts.



The First Chinese Toothbrush

Wow! The Chinese right?

Yeah, this was around the 15th century. It was the first bristle made toothbrush resembling the modern ones used today. The bristles were taken from boar-hair and were inserted in a handle made of bamboo or bone. The Japanese Zen master documented this while traveling there in 1223. One would wonder how this boar hair was effectively used as toothbrush bristles.

According to records, the boar hairs were taken from boars in Siberia and Northern China where the temperatures are colder. So, the hairs were thick enough to be used as bristles. When these designs reached Europe, some people preferred the use of horsehair instead, because it made much softer bristles compared to the boar hair.

William Addis in 1780, while in prison, invented the first toothbrush with a modern design. It was still made of boar hair bristles but the handle was carved from cattle bone. Upon his realize from prison, Addis started the mass production of the toothbrushes and sold them throughout London. His company was so prosperous, such that it’s still in existence even now, under the brand name, ‘Wisdom toothbrushes’.


Dr. West’s Miracle Toothbrush

Following the Addis toothbrushes, all toothbrush designs that followed maintained the use of natural bristles. It was not until the year 1935 when, Du Pont Laboratories invented synthetic fiber or nylon. This ushered the incorporation of nylon-bristles on the toothbrush.  Dr. West is known to have invented the first toothbrush with nylon bristles and a more modern design. It was known under the brand name ‘Doctor West’s Miracle-Tuft’ Toothbrush.

By the 1950s, nylon toothbrushes with different thicknesses were flooding the market. Especially, those with softer bristles, as some preferred these.

When was the first electric toothbrush invented?

The first electric toothbrush was invented in 1939 in Switzerland. Squibb, an American company, marketed the first American toothbrush later in 1950, which was called the Broxodent.



A photo of a Motodent electric toothbrush. The toothbrush was on display at the Museum of American Heritage in Palo Alto, California, USA. The photo was taken in 2019 during a visit to the museum.


A cordless rechargeable design was developed thereafter, in 1961 by General Electric. The initial rationale behind the electric toothbrushes was to help those with dexterity problems and people with braces.

This was a brief highlight of the evolution of the toothbrush, as we see and know it today. Nowadays, the market is flooded with various designs and brands of toothbrushes from different manufacturers all over the world. These come in different sizes, colors, and bristle thickness.

All in all, the basic design hasn’t changed since the times of the Babylonians, Greeks, and Egyptians. Toothbrushes have always had a handle and a head with bristles to clean teeth. The most important thing is to pick a right toothbrush for yourself and brush at least twice a day, fluoridated toothpaste.

Which one came first Toothbrush or Toothpaste?

Mmm. quit a tricky question. But one would argue that there is no way you would use toothpaste without a toothbrush, it’s ridiculous and not logical. Although this is a valid argument in our modern times, however, the same cannot be said for the ancient civilizations dating back as far as 5000 BC when the Egyptians first started using toothpaste. This was certainly, way before the toothbrushes and its predecessors came into the picture. The Ancient Greeks, as well as, the Romans were also believed to have used toothpaste around 500BC.


Just like we use toothpastes today for cleaning our teeth and gums, whitening our teeth, and having a fresh breath, so were the ancient toothpaste used. The ingredients, however, were very different, some even questionable.  For example the Greeks, as well as, the Romans preferred more abrasive ingredients such as crushed bone and oyster shells. The Chinese, on the other,  used different substances over time, which have included salts, herbal mints, and salts.


Modern toothpastes only started to surface around the early 19th century. These versions had some soap in them and later, chalk was added in the 1850s. Around the 1860s, a home encyclopedia in England described a home-made toothpaste that was made from ground charcoal.

Now, before the 1850s, all the ‘toothpastes’ were in powder form. It was not until the 1850s when the first toothpaste was developed. And it was called Creme Dentifrice.

Colgate Toothpaste

William Colgate was the founder and owner, of Colgate-Palmolive. In the year 1873, about 16 years following his death, there was a mass production of Colgate toothpaste. Today, the Colgate brand is well known for its quality toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, and other dental products.

Fluoride was added to toothpaste in 1914, to help prevent dental caries disease. Following this, various other Kinds of toothpastes were developed, especially in the second half of the twentieth century, to help prevent and treat conditions such as sensitive teeth. Sodium lauryl sulfate, a common ingredient in today’s toothpastes, replaced the soap in the toothpastes in 1945.


Today’s toothpastes typically contain fluoride, flavoring, color, sweeteners, as well as, some ingredients to the toothpaste smooth, moist and foamy. The tube design the toothpaste comes in is used worldwide and has been a successful invention.

For more information, you can visit Colgate

If you have any questions or anything you feel should be added. Please let me know in the comment section below. I will be more than happy to attend to your questions or comments, as soon as possible.












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