wooden old toothbrush chewing stick

History of Toothbrush
From the chewing stick to the electric toothbrush

The History of Toothbrushing

From the very first toothbrush ever used to brand new electric toothbrush models, toothbrushing has always been a hygiene practice that people have engaged in for centuries. Dental professionals all over the world will agree that brushing your teeth regularly helps to keep your smile healthy and clean. While the methods of cleaning your teeth certainly have changed over the years, the purpose of brushing teeth has remained the same: to get those pearly whites crystal clean and to prevent tooth loss.

The discovery of toothbrushing

Tools used for toothbrushing date back to roughly 3500-3000 BC when Egyptians and Babylonians used twigs that they frayed to rub against their teeth. In fact, many ancient Egyptian tombs have been found containing toothpicks that were apparently used to clean food and debris from teeth. The Chinese invented a device known as a "chewing stick" in 1600 BC as a way to keep teeth clean and free of food particles. What's more, many of these twigs were made from the twigs of aromatic trees that would freshen the user's breath along with removing plaque.

The Chinese were also believed to have invented the first natural toothbrush made using pig neck bristles during the 15th century. These bristles were then attached to a bamboo or bone handle to create a firm grip for the user to brush their teeth. When this brush was brought from China to Europe, the design was altered a bit to use horse's hair rather than pigs. Certain toothbrushes found in Europe even used feathers in place of hair.

The First Toothpaste

Along with the evolution of toothbrushes, toothpaste has changed quite a bit over the past few centuries. Ancient Egyptians were believed to have used the first toothpaste around 5000 BC by combining a mixture of ox hoof ash, pumice and ground eggshells. The purpose of these toothpastes were to keep gums and teeth clean while maintaining proper oral health. Greeks and Romans had more abrasive toothpastes and preferred to use oyster shells and crushed bones ground together to form a fine powder that would essentially melt when placed in the mouth.

Prior to the year 1850, every toothpaste available on the market was in powder form. It wasn't until close to the turn of the century that a toothpaste in a jar was released known as Crème Dentifrice. Colgate later released their own toothpaste in a jar using mass factory production and during the 1890s, they began putting the toothpaste in tubes that looked quite similar to what you see on store shelves today.

The First Manual Toothbrush

While the twigs and sticks used by ancient Egyptians and Greeks could be considered manual brushing, the first modern-type designed manual brush wasn't invented until 1780 by a man from England named William Addis. He designed the brush to have a curved handle made using bone and pig bristles. In the year 1844, the very first three-row toothbrush was designed to offer more cleaning surface for the user and provide a healthier mouth. The use of swine bristles and horse hair was the go-to before nylon was invented, so many older toothbrushes that can be found in historical museums are seen to contain animal bristles of some kind.

While the history of toothbrushing is quite rich and expansive, manual toothbrushes are still one of the most commonly purchased products to this day. While there is a big difference to Sonicare when using a manual brush, they're easier for on-the-go brushing without the need for a charger, cord or battery. However, most dentists and hygienists will agree that an electric toothbrush, such as the Sonicare, does a better job of cleaning your teeth when compared to manual toothbrushes.

Nylon Bristles - What they are how they were discovered

Nylon was invented in 1938 by Du Pont and by the 1950s, the era of Nylon exploded in all rooms of the modern home. The very first nylon toothbrush was coined the West's Miracle Toothbrush and it had people snapping them up and throwing out their older, used brushes for a more modern way to keep their teeth clean. When nylon was first discovered and used in toothbrush design, the bristles were incredibly hard, and many users were unable to switch from the older boar hair models to the newer ones. During the 1950s, the nylon bristles were softened to accommodate the needs of the public. Nylon was found to provide a cleaner scrub while also being more hygienic. They were also incredibly affordable since nylon was mass produced and often cheaper at the time than boar bristle brushes.

To this day, nylon is still the most commonly used material for all toothbrush heads. Whether it's an electric toothbrush, rotating toothbrush or a manual, nylon is easy to keep clean and wears down gradually to provide users with a wonderfully long-lasting and inexpensive experience. You can still find natural brushes made using boar bristles and horse hair, but they are now more uncommon to find than nylon and they can be quite expensive. Many modern-day people are also turned away at the thought of putting animal hair in their mouth when there are other, cleaner options available.

The Very First Electric Toothbrush

The first electric toothbrush was Broxodent electric brush in 1954. These brushes were made only in Switzerland and later in France until many other dental companies began copying the idea and bringing these designs into other countries.

Electric toothbrushes today are incredibly beneficial to oral health and hygiene. In fact, when visiting your local dental office, chances are pretty good that you'll get a recommendation for an electric brush of some kind. Certain brands use sonic vibrations to clean the teeth. Sonic vibrations send pulses between the teeth and underneath the gum line to quickly and effectively remove food particles and plaque. Other models use a spinning or back-and-forth motion that works to spin the brush around the tooth while the brush is in use. One of the most commonly used spin brushes is made by Oral-B.


History of toothbrush. Toothbrushes Timeline


  • 3500-3000 B.C.: First tool ever used for brushing teeth by the Egyptians and Babylonians (frayed twig).
  • 15th century: First manual toothbrush invented by Chinese (pig hair bristles and bamboo handles)
  • 1780: First modern toothbrush, by William Addis
  • 1938: First nylon toothbrush, by Dr. West’s Miracle Tuft Toothbrush
  • 1954: First electric toothbrush by Broxodent
  • 1992: First sonic toothbrush from Philips
  • 2015: First automatic toothbrush from Amabrush

     Types of Electric Toothbrushes

    Electric toothbrushes have become the top product recommendation in dental offices worldwide. The high-power vibrations or rotating brush head works to quickly remove plaque and food particles without needing to manually brush. In fact, most electric toothbrushes are designed to work on their own, requiring the user to simply move the brush to different areas of the mouth without applying pressure.

    • Sonic: Sonic toothbrushes use sonic vibrations to quickly power through plaque, food particles and stains to clean teeth. The sonic vibrations work simultaneously with your toothpaste to push bubbles around and between teeth for a just-from-the-dentist clean.

    • Ultrasonic: Ultrasonic toothbrushes generate ultrasound waves to quickly eradicate signs of plaque and debris. The ultrasonic toothbrush normally operates on a frequency of 1.6 MHz, which translates to roughly 192,000,000 movements per minute. The acoustic pressure waves are generated by the brush and are virtually silent to the human ear. One of the first ultrasonic toothbrushes designed and launched was the Ultrasonex by Sonex Corporation in 1992. Though extremely powerful, the Ultrasonex has been FDA-approved for daily use. The Smilex Ultrasonic Toothbrush was launched in 2012 as an updated version to the original technology.

    • Rotating: Rotating toothbrushes have a carefully designed brush head that spins back and forth, giving more of a brush-like motion that can help to clean the teeth. Unlike sonic and ultrasonic technology, rotating brushes are more surface-based and clean only where the brush is being placed. However, by carefully choosing the brush head that you're using, you may be able to get a deeper clean with the use of longer, thinner or thicker bristles. Some of the most popular rotating electric toothbrush models include the Oral-B Pro 500 series and the Rotadent.

    • Battery-Powered: Battery-powered toothbrushes run on batteries, typically AA or AAA, and do not require regular charging the way that an electric toothbrush would need. Because of this, many people find battery-powered toothbrushes to be more convenient for on-the-go dental hygiene. However, keep in mind that most battery-powered brushes do not offer the technology and power that you'd find with either a sonic brush or ultrasonic toothbrush.

      The technology behind each specific type of toothbrush varies depending on the brand and model that you're using. However, the basic science put into developing the modern electric toothbrush is to provide a superior clean when compared to manual brushing. The brush heads are designed with more bristles at different angles and thicknesses, which helps to get into deep grooves and thin areas that would otherwise be missed with a manual brush.

    Automatic Amabrush Toothbrush in Hand

    Automatic Hands-Free Toothbrushes of the Future

    While the testing and research is still ongoing for hands-free toothbrushes, it's pretty apparent that these kinds of electric toothbrushes are going to be the toothbrush of the future. Amabrush uses sonic vibrations to essentially break apart plaque without you having to move around a brush for two minutes. In fact, a hands-free toothbrush of the future looks like you need getting used to at first, but they can help to save time and reduce the likelihood that you'll skip brushing because of laziness, which nowadays, in time of fully stressed daily lives, belongs to the daily order.

    The design of the gadget looks like a bristle-laden mouth guard that you place into your mouth. After biting down, the bristles cover all your teeth and when pressing the power button, you'll feel powerful sonic vibrations that are working to clean your teeth for you in just seconds. The mouthpiece is made using hygienic material that is anti-microbial to prevent contamination. 

    However, because of the advances that are coming around concerning these hands-free models, it probably won't be long until we are all using them regularly and ditching our nylon bristle toothbrushes for a more modern approach. As with many other products in the past, what we think is great will be a long-forgotten item decades from now.

    Conclusion: With such a rich history, toothbrushing has always been something that people have obviously found to be an important part of their everyday lives. With brand new advancements in toothbrush techniques and tools, it's easier than ever for you to get that perfect clean smile that will make your dentist happy at your next appointment.