Nowadays, people can not even visualize their lives without using advanced technology for proper oral hygiene. Hence, when it comes to choosing toothbrushes or toothpaste, we have a massive amount of choices, but has your daily brushing routine ever made you think how and when was the toothbrush invented? How did people brush their teeth in the past.
For a minute, let’s travel through time, to see when people created the first electric toothbrushes, toothbrushes, and what oral hygiene habits existed.
The modern person surrounds itself with hundreds of technologically advanced gadgets that help to fulfill daily tasks; smartphones, computers, smart watches, headphones or electric toothbrushes that can connect to the phones and track one’s oral hygiene. In this race of rapid technological evolution, simple manual toothbrushes seem to lose.
Nowadays, in the market of toothbrushes, there are a variety of choices. Manual, interdental and electric toothbrushes that come with a battery or a rechargeable battery and even ones that power up wirelessly. However, these are not all, and as the toothbrush should be changed after 3 months of usage, electric toothbrushes have detachable necks.
Moreover, they would come with different characteristics such as whitening, deep cleaning, or designed for kids. With the rise of plastic pollution, companies are trying to come up with solutions for wasting less. Brushette is one of those companies, which, in contrast to the others, it produces detachable heads with bristles so that the users do not change the whole neck+head of the toothbrush but only the bristle part. Apart from that, there are 12 types of bristles that you can choose from that will suit your teeth and gums and also satisfy the goals you want to achieve.
Brushing culture in the US: mid 19th-20th c.
The patent for the toothbrush was signed in 1857 with H. N Handsworth in the USA. Early versions of toothbrushes with animal hair was not beneficial, as the animal hair used to fall out and did not really fight the bacteria. In addition, the bone handles were not conventional, so in the 1900’s they were changed with iron or wood ones.
In 1938 the first toothbrush with nylon or synthetic bristles were invented. Although people used toothbrushes for a long time, brushing habits of Americans were vague until WWII.
The soldiers followed the strict rules and brushed their teeth every day. So, only after the war, Americans also adapted the routine.
The first electric toothbrush was created in 1954 in Switzerland by Dr. Philippe-G. Woog's. It was not the electric toothbrush that we know now.
First of all, it was not produced for mass usage but for people who had restricted motor skills and also for the ones that went under orthodontic procedures. Even more, it was not portable and was being plugged to the socket so a person could only use it in limited space.
China: the inventor of the prototype of modern toothbrushes
During the 7th century, Chinese crested toothbrushes that were more or less similar to the ones that we use today. That first toothbrushes had natural bristles made from wild swine hair, that was attached to a bamboo or bone handle. Later in their practice, they created bamboo bristles, which gave the experience we have today.
The toothbrushes with bristles were spread in Europe by merchants from China and found their extensive usage in the 17th century. However, Chinese pig hair bristles were too harsh for them, so they replaced it with horsehair and started a mass production in 1780.
Already in the 1840s toothbrushes were produced in France, Germany, England, and Japan both with horsehairs as an expansive option and pig hairs as a budget version.
Dental Care: Earlier Era
Stepping back to even earlier times, we see, that surprisingly, the history of toothbrushes dates back to 3500 BC. Ancient people used different methods for cleaning their teeth. They would use salt, chalk, and even a piece of cloth to rub and clean their teeth.
What is a toothstick? It is an actual stick that people chewed until the side of it formed wooden fibers, which were soft enough not to harm, and at the same time, clean their teeth.
During the excavations, scientists found toothsticks in the Summer Mesopotamian that date back to 3500 BC. Later on, during archaeological excavations, archaeologists found an Egyptian tomb from 3000BC that had toothsticks buried together with the owner.
The old toothbrushes were made from Salvadora persica tree. The tree has antibacterial and curing features, and in some countries people even nowadays use it. Different nations used various trees from which they made the chew stick. For instance, branches from different trees were used in different countries. In Australia it was a mango tree, a fig tree in India, oak, fig and apple trees in Europe and the US.
Babylonians, in their turn, used these kinds of toothbrushes too but they had a gentle approach towards choosing the trees, giving preference to those that would clear and refresh their breath. In size, toothbrushes resembled a pencil.
Apart from that, Babylonians would use the other, not frayed, side of the toothbrush as a toothpick for taking out the leftover food. In Asian side Chinese also had chewing toothsticks and similar to Babylonians, from aromatic trees in order to have a fresh breath.
Miswak is a twig for cleaning teeth. Form appearance Miswak looks like a tooth stick. It was used 7000 years ago and is made from the Salvadora persica tree. Miswak was used in Arabia, some parts of Africa, India, and Malaysia, where it was called Kayu Sugi.
Apart from the antibacterial features, it has religious importance for Muslims, as Muhammad suggested using it before some rituals. That is why, even nowadays people use it, but modern Miswak is much more upgraded version of the oldest one. It is factory produced and you can find it in different online shops, including Amazon. Moreover, According to the study conducted in 2016, periodic use of Miswak decreases the need for dental treatment.
A toothbrush is not only the tool of hygiene that ancient civilizations used. They are thought to have made hand made toothpaste, and in most cases, the ingredients used were quite dangerous. For example, they burned eggshells or used hoof ashes, or crushed oyster shells and bones that might sound barbaric for a modern person.
Romans used to add various flavors to freshen the breath. Around 5000 BC, Egyptians used to clean their teeth directly with toothpaste before even having a toothbrush. Indians and Chinese first used toothpaste during 500 BC, and the toothpaste used by Chinese had ingredients such as mint, ginseng, and salt.
Toothbrushes were not the only tools of oral hygiene back in the times. There was more than that; in fact, ancient people had almost no dental problems because of their diet. People did not consume fast food, sugary foods, and food made from chemical elements, so everything was natural. Our ancestors consumed food rich with nutrients and vitamins.
Crunchy and fiber - rich foods were also a big part of their diet, and naturally took care of their oral hygiene. Also, the food they ate was hard, so their teeth were also strong to be able to chew the food. Even nowadays, specialists suggest using foods that will improve and maintain your dental hygiene, because a diet is essential not only for our oral health but for physical and psychological as well.