Every day for our entire lives we brush our teeth, or should be anyways. But do we ever wonder where the toothbrush and toothpaste came from? I bet most of us don’t even think about that because we all take the little things for granted. Here is a little history about the toothbrush and toothpaste.
The First Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Between the year 3500-3000 B.C. historians say the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians created the first toothbrushes using frayed twigs as bristles and bones for the handles. They found these “toothbrushes” buried with them in their tombs. They also used the toothpaste around 5000 B.C. years before the toothbrush. It was made using grounded ox hooves, ashes, burnt egg shells and pumice. Not very hygienic, am I right? You definitely don’t want to use that mix now.
History of the Toothbrush
People didn’t do much to advance the toothbrush until it was reinvented in the year 1498 in China. The brush was from course hairs taken from the back of a hog’s neck and attached to bone or bamboo for the handles. In 1780, William Addis was from England and designed the toothbrush from cattle bone and the brush portion was made from a pig’s hair as well. Before he invented his design, he was arrested for causing a riot. While in prison he decided that using a rag with soot and salt on the teeth was ineffective and could be improved. After his release, he became tremendously wealthy manufacturing toothbrushes with his company Wisdom Toothbrushes. By 1840 toothbrushes were being mass produced in Britian, France, Germany and Japan. Addis died in 1808 and passed on his company to his eldest son and it remained in his family until 1996. Photographs, documents and collected brushes are now displayed in a museum.
The Greeks and Romans used toothpicks to clean their teeth and in places like India and Africa they used chew sticks. A chew stick was a twig with frayed ends used to brush the teeth and the other end was used as a toothpick. The toothbrush as we know it today wasn’t invented until 1938 by E. I. du Pont de Nemours and is now commonly known as the American company DuPont. The DuPont company is the world’s fourth largest chemical company. He made the toothbrush from nylon and by the 1950’s softer nylon was created. 10 years later the electric toothbrush was invented and progressed over the next decades to what we now use.
History of the Toothpaste
The Greeks and Romans took the Egyptians ingredients and began experimenting. They used crushed bones, oyster shells and charcoal to help improve their teeth. China and India used the same ingredients but added more flavor like herbal mints and salts. In the 1700’s toast was invented and some used stale toast, ground it up until it was a fine power and used it to help scrub teeth.
In 1824, a dentist named Peabody was the first person to add soap to toothpaste. In the following years a man named John Harris added chalk into the ingredient. Colgate began producing their toothpaste on a wider scale by 1873. Their toothpaste was placed in a jar and multiple people in a household would dip their toothbrushes into the jar. Until Dr. Washington Sheffield thought it was unsanitary; he got the inspiration from painters to place the toothpaste in a collapsible tube. By 1914, fluoride was discovered but not particularly used in all toothpaste worldwide. After World War II, synthetic detergents replaced soap and then by 1960 fluoride became standard in toothpaste.
Toothpaste today contains fluoride, coloring, flavoring, sweetener, and ingredients that make the toothpaste smooth, foam, and stay moist. Over the last centuries the toothpaste has advanced to a healthier and more hygienic paste that helps with whitening and preventing cavities. Aren’t you glad we don’t use crushed bones in toothpaste anymore? I know I am.