A toothbrush as we know today was not invented until 1938, however it is believed that an early version of a toothbrush dates back to the Ancient Egyptian in 3000 B.C.
What the Ancient Egyptians used was known as a ‘Chew Stick’, which comprised of a thin twig with a frayed edge. These sticks were then rubbed against the teeth to remove food.
Around 1600 B.C. the Chinese developed their own “chewing sticks” made from aromatic tree twigs, so not only did they clean their teeth but it helped to freshen breath.
In 1498, the Chinese invented the bristle toothbrush, which is similar to what we use today. The bristles were coarse stiff hairs from the back of a hog’s neck and these were attached to a handle made of ivory or bamboo.
Moving forward to the late 18th century, an Englishman named William Addis landed in jail for inciting a riot in 1780. To pass the time away whilst he was in prison, he carved a bone handle, drilled holes into it and inserted boar bristles that were held in place by wire. This was his first proto-type toothbrush.
When Addis finally left prison he started to mass-produce his new invention and ended up dying a very wealthy man in 1808. He left the business to his eldest son, also called William, and it stayed within the family’s ownership until 1996, and was known as Wisdom Toothbrushes.
The first American to patent a nylon toothbrush was H.N. Wadsworth on 7th November 1857, but in the United States of America, mass production of toothbrushes only started in 1885. This toothbrush had a rather advanced design with a bone handle with holes which had the hairs of a Siberian boar bored into it.
Boar bristles were used up to 1938, until a company named DuPont, developed a toothbrush with nylon fibres, with the first sale on the 24th February 1938. These proved to last longer and be more efficient than the boars hair.
This nylon toothbrush was called Doctor West’s Miracle Tuft Toothbrush. After World War II ended and people saw that the American soldiers had been very disciplined with their dental hygiene, this influenced the rest of America to adopt good oral hygiene and the nylon toothbrush became very popular.
In 1939 the Broxodent, which was the first electric toothbrush, was invented in Switzerland in 1954 by the Squibb company. At the turn of the 21st century, nylon was most commonly used for the bristles, with the handles being made from moulded thermoplastic materials.
Today, both manual and electric toothbrushes come in many shapes and sizes but mainly consist of plastic molded handles and nylon bristles.
There are now numerous shapes of handles, including straight, angled, curved, and contoured, some have extra grips and soft rubber areas to ease the hold and use.
Toothbrush bristles are now made synthetically and range from very soft in texture to harder bristle versions.
Also toothbrush heads are varied for very young children to older children and adults and come in a variety of shapes, colours and bristle textures.