Not everybody wants to talk about it (they have an agenda I tell you), but electric toothbrushes have their own share of legitimate history.
And history here does not mean a collection of cartoon movies on baby toothbrushes who were lost in a terrible jungle (there are a few J).
Like did you know the first chewstick of Babylonia dates back to 3500 BC?
..Or that Napolean used toothbrushes that were made of horsehair?
..Or the idea of toothbrush bristles (the modern ones) was conceived in a jail?
There are many more of these tidbits that you so need to know.
In today’s article on the history of toothbrushes, I go from this cover to that. Join me.
Table Of Contents
See this infographic……….
The Chew Sticks and Toothpicks
Before we had toothbrush, there were chew sticks. It is safe to say that chew sticks were the first civilizational tools of oral hygiene. The construction wasn’t any rocket science either – just a tree twig with a frayed end that would rub against the teeth. The other end would be pointed to be used as a toothpick. This construct was first noted in 3500 BC in Babylonia. Such designs were also excavated from an Egyptian tomb dating back to 3000 BC.
Even the Romans and the Greeks picked up from the toothpick designs. In fact, shortly after Babylonia, toothpicks were introduced as a custom design. However, the first noted instances of toothpicks have not been noticed until 1600 BC China. The excavation tombs of Qin Dynasty serve as the first recorded sites for toothpick excavation in the area. It is common belief that the Romans and Greeks picked up from here. Even today, variations of these sticks remain common among Muslims and parts of South America.
The Horseshoe model
After the first instances of bristle toothbrushes found in China of the Tang Dynasty, the hog hair ones became quite popular. These hogs were generally imported from Serbia and parts of Northern China. Sometime in the early parts of the 13th century, a Japanese traveller chronicled tales of Chinese monks who would clean their teeth with horse-hair bristles and handles made from ox bones. These were also the first bristle brushes that were taken to Europe by travellers from China. These toothbrushes became quite popular in Europe too.
The earliest adoptions of these brushes were done in the 17th century. Instances of small scale manufacturing are believed to have been recorded, but are largely not chronicled. Napoleon is said to have famously used a horseshoe toothbrush with bristles.
The Tale of William Addis
Something very interesting happened in the last quadrant of the 18th century. In 1770, a man named William Addis was jailed for causing a riot. At that time, the common method for cleaning teeth was rubbing rags with salt on teeth. He believed that this ineffective method of cleaning teeth could be worked upon. He cleverly drilled tiny holes in a leftover bone from his last meal. He obtained some bristles from a guard, tied them together and sewed them into the holes. He then glued it all together and bam, the first of the modern toothbrush we know was born.
Shortly after Addis came out of jail, he set up a business of manufacturing toothbrushes. He went from rags to riches in no time and then passed on the business to his eldest son. The business stayed with the family for as long as 1996. The famous Wisdom toothbrush actually belongs to this legacy!
Beginning of mass production
By the middle of the 19th century, countries like Germany, Japan, France and England had begun with the mass production of toothbrushes. Most of the cheaper versions used pig hair while some of the more expensive ones employed badger hair. Around this time, the first commercial advertisements for toothbrushes seem to have been shot. The professional sale of toothbrushes had already become a reality by now.
No more animal brushes
By the start of the 20th century, people had started looking for replacements of animal products in their toothbrushes. This is the time when the animal bristles were not liked by several people. Very soon, the synthetically manufactured bristles came in and never went back. The new synthetic bristles had more strength, lasted longer and were also cheaper – a win from all possible angles.
In the 20th century itself, the substitute for animal bone handles were also discovered. The first non-animal handles were made of celluloid. But it was not until 1938 that the first nylon bristle toothbrushes came to sell. In an evolutionary turn of events, thermoplastic materials were slowly employed for making the handles of toothbrushes.
The game of big brands
After the millennium set in, the play of toothbrushes was largely centered on the big brands of the industry. Names like Oral-B, Philips, Braun and Sonicare started producing a variety of toothbrush models. This was also the time when the first manual toothbrushes started offering modern features. The first electric toothbrush shortly followed.
Brands like Sonicare, Oral-B and Braun are now champion manufacturers of electric toothbrushes along with some modern manual toothbrushes as well. Now we have technologies like pulsations, sonic and ultrasonic vibrations, better cleaning angles, pivoting heads and even floss action toothbrushes are not uncommon.
Using electric toothbrushes
At the outset, it can appear like something that needs to be revisited all the time. However, you will note that using an electric toothbrush is in many ways simpler than using manual toothbrushes. All you need to do is settle with the right mode, get into the right quadrant of the mouth and allow the brush to do its bit. In just two minutes you will have cleaned the whole of the mouth. Features like Smart Timer and Quad Pacer make it even easier to time the brush action.
Electric Toothbrushes for Kids
There are several custom made electric toothbrush designs for kids. These are generally made of peppy and interchangeable decals that are always fun to go with themes. Kids tend to fall in love with these funky editions and make brushing and unforgettable habit. Also brushing with an electric toothbrush does not call for much effort on part of the kids, making it a very interactive 2 minutes of the day for them.