Robertson and Orchard, DDS

History of the Toothbrush and Toothpaste

By N. Perry Orchard on April 23, 2020

Female looks into mirror while using an electric toothbrushPeople have long understood the connection between oral hygiene habits and a healthy and attractive smile. Our dentists, Dr. Charles A. Robertson and Dr. Nicholas Perry Orchard, educate patients of all ages on the importance of good oral hygiene habits.

Modern-day toothbrushes and toothpastes rely on sound engineering and medical advances to optimally clean the teeth. But the earliest versions of these common household items may surprise you. Once you’ve read up on the history of the toothbrush and toothpaste, be sure to schedule your next cleaning or exam with our dentists in Corpus Christi, TX.

History of the Toothbrush

The toothbrush is universally used around the world by people of all ages and nationalities to clean their teeth. The oral hygiene tool was first used an astonishing 6,500 years ago in ancient Egypt and Babylon. Those early cleaning devices were low-tech. A twig with a frayed end was all that stood between ancient civilizations and tooth decay.

Those early attempts at oral hygiene may have been for cosmetic reasons. Many cultures, then as now, associate white teeth with youth and beauty.

Bristle Toothbrushes

Modern toothbrushes are fitted with hundreds of tiny bristles that work together to gently scrape away plaque before it can form tartar. The development of a bristled toothbrush was a critical step in the evolution of the toothbrush. Credit for that development goes to the Chinese who began using bristles from the hairs on the necks of pigs to brush the teeth. The bristles were attached to bone or bamboo handles beginning in the 15th century.

The idea spread to Europe where it was adopted using horse hairs.

The First Modern Toothbrush

The first toothbrush that resembled our modern-day versions was developed by William Addis in England around 1780. The handle was carved from cattle bone. Swine bristles were affixed to one end. The model was further refined into a three-row version in 1844.

Synthetic materials allowed for further improvements. DuPont invented nylon in 1935, and the synthetic polymer is still widely used in toothbrush bristles. Unlike animal hair, nylon did not wear down quickly.

The Evolution of Toothpaste

Evidence of toothpaste use predates the earliest known oral hygiene tools. Egyptians developed a paste for cleaning their teeth around 5000BC. Ancient Romans used toothpaste for cosmetic purposes. Ancient cultures likely used toothpaste to freshen their breath as much as to clean their teeth.

The base material of early types of toothpaste varied widely. Some cultures preferred abrasive ingredients while other societies focused on flavorings that would cover bad breath. Common toothpaste materials included ash, burnt eggshell, pumice, crushed bones, herbs, and oyster shells.

Colgate pioneered the creamy textured pastes that are common today. The first mass-produced toothpaste jars were sold in 1873. Medical advances in the 20th century improved the germ-fighting capability of toothpaste. The use of fluoride further improved the oral hygiene benefits of toothpaste.

Schedule Your Next Visit Today

Toothpaste and toothbrushes are nothing new. The tools have been continually refined for thousands of years. Now that oral hygiene is on your mind, consider scheduling your next dental cleaning or exam so one of our doctors can search for signs of cavities or gum disease. To schedule your next visit, please contact our office online or call (361) 992-3011.

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Corpus Christi Office

6421 Saratoga Blvd
Ste 102
Corpus Christi, TX 78414

Open Today 9:00am - 5:00pm

More Info Directions (361) 992-3011