A toothbrush is an instrument used for cleaning the teeth and gums. It consists of a cluster of bristles that are mounted onto one end of a handle. The handle is used for holding the toothbrush. The bristles clean the teeth and gums by brushing over them to remove plaque or food debris.
History of the toothbrush
The toothbrush is a common fixture in any home. It is essential for cleaning teeth and general oral hygiene. However, the toothbrush as we know it today was not always as it is. It has undergone development through the centuries.
3500 – 3000 BC
Tools for brushing teeth were first seen between 3500 – 3000 BC. The Egyptians and Babylonians used twigs by chewing their ends to fray them. These twigs have been discovered in the tombs of some ancient Egyptians alongside their owners.
The Chinese also developed chewing sticks similar to the twigs of the Babylonians and Egyptians. These twigs however, were from aromatic tree twigs. They therefore also contributed to freshening of breath.
The modern toothbrush as we know it today begun to take shape in the 15th century. The Chinese developed a toothbrush using pig hair as the bristles. For the handle, a piece of bamboo or a bone was used. This design was later adapted in Europe when the toothbrush was brought to Europe. However, the Europeans used horse hair or feathers to replace the pig hair which was considered too hard.
1780 – 1850
The first modern toothbrush was designed in England by William Addis. He used a cattle bone for the handle and carved it into the shape that is so commonly seen in the modern toothbrush. He used swine hair for the brush bristles.
In later years, a toothbrush with three rows of bristles was introduced.
The invention of nylon by Du Pont resulted in the transition from natural fiber for the bristles of toothbrushes to nylon fiber bristles. Softer nylon fibers were introduced to toothbrushes. These were a hit with people.
In 1954, the first electric toothbrush was introduced. It was invented in Switzerland by Dr. Phillipe-Guy Woog. It was introduced to the US in 1960.
The toothbrush continues to undergo developments. Some of these include the introduction of chewable toothbrushes, 3-D printed toothbrushes and other individually tailored toothbrushes. However, the manual and electric toothbrush designs of the 1900s still continue to be the most popular toothbrushes used today.