The History of the Toothbrush, Toothpaste and the Habit of Brushing
Where did toothpaste and the toothbrush come from, and why do we brush our teeth twice a day? We explore all these questions and more beginning with the toothbrush and the habit of brushing.
The Toothbrush and Brushing Twice a Day
Did you know the modern toothbrush as we know it wasn’t invented until the late 1930’s? Up until 1938, toothbrush bristles were made from horsehairs, boar hair or feathers. This practice of using natural bristles can be traced back to the Chinese, who would attach bristles from pigs’ necks that were then attached to a bone or bamboo handle. By the 1950s, softer nylon bristles were being made, as people preferred these over the harsher natural bristles thanks to popular brands like Dr. West’s Toothbrushes. Fun fact: the first electric toothbrush was invented in 1939, but wasn’t introduced to the public until the 1960s!
The common practice of brushing your teeth twice a day was not all that common until the end of WWII. Dentistry was often overlooked and viewed as unimportant prior to WWII. Soldiers often looked at dentistry as a burden and more of an inconvenience during the war. Recruits had such bad rotting teeth that the government prioritized healthy teeth, instilling the brushing twice a day rule to their daily routines. Returning soldiers brought back the habit of brushing their teeth twice a day which eventually became common practice amongst the general public.
Ancient Egyptians are believed to have been the first civilization to start using a paste to clean their teeth around 5000BC, Ancient Greeks and Romans are also known to have used toothpastes, in addition to people in China and India around 500BC.
The ingredients in these ancient toothpastes were quite different from what we find in our toothpastes today. For example, the Greeks and Romans favored ingredients such as crushed bones and oyster shells, while the Chinese used a wide variety of substances in toothpastes over time that have included ginseng, herbal mints and salt.
In the 1800’s early versions of toothpaste contained soap, chalk and betel nut and usually came in a powder. During the 1850s, a new toothpaste in a jar called a Crème Dentifrice was developed and in 1873 Colgate started the mass production of toothpaste in jars.
Up until the early 20th century, toothpastes contained soap which was eventually replaced by other ingredients such as fluoride and sodium lauryl sulphate, a common ingredient in present-day toothpaste.
Well there you have it folks! Brushing our teeth has had a long history spanning thousands of years across various civilizations. Share your thoughts with us and don’t forget to share this post by clicking the social site of your choice below.