When you go to the supermarket to buy a new toothbrush, you will likely see dozens of iterations lining the shelves. There are many different types of toothbrushes to fit all kinds of mouth shapes and dental needs.

Toothbrush Origin

(Pixabay / Engin_Akyurt)

The toothbrush as we know it today has evolved over the course of many years. Here’s a look at its history.

Sticks and Animal Hair

The early Egyptians and Babylonians chewed on sticks to clean their teeth. After they chewed on one end long enough, they would unravel enough fibers to constitute a small brush. Later, people discovered the Miswak, an herbal chewing stick that was believed to possess antiseptic properties. There are some claims that the Miswak is even more effective than the present-day toothbrush.

People in China also used sticks for toothbrushes, but they plucked hairs off the backs of pigs and pasted them to the stick to make a brush. Others in China used animal bones, porcupine quills and boar bristles as their stick.

The Modern Toothbrush

So how did we get from the arcane toothbrush to the current version? William Addis of Clerkenwald, England had a lot to do with it. He is credited with creating the modern-day toothbrush concept. While in prison, he used the bones from his dinner and some bristles provided by prison guards to create a device to clean his teeth. Upon release from prison, he refined his invention, using cow tail hair tied to a cow bone. He started producing his toothbrushes en masse, and they gained traction all over the world.

H.H. Wadsworth patented the first American toothbrush in 1857. In 1885, toothbrushes were mass-produced by the Florence Manufacturing Company of Massachusetts. In 1938, nylon became the material of choice for the bristles.

Electric Toothbrush

The first electric toothbrush was introduced in the U.S. by the Squibb Company and was sold under the brand name Boxodent. In 1986, the first rotary-style electric toothbrush for home use was introduced by Interplak.

Talk to your dentist or periodontist about the best kind of toothbrush and toothpaste for your specific dental needs.