Toothbrushes: a Brief History of an Enduring and Vital Tool for Tooth Care.
They say that our ancestors did not suffer from tooth decay. What is now a common problem for humans was rare for early humans. Of course, their life expectancy was much shorter and their diet was very different than the Standard American Diet of today. I still wouldn’t swap their perfect teeth for my own food habits, (coffee and a good blueberry muffin, yum! I can hear Virginic Jeff's eyes rolling around in his empty head from here! XD).
BTW, sugar is merely fuel for a specific kind of bacteria that decomposes the remains of food into lactic acid which leads to oral cavities to develop. This bacteria emerged around 20,000 years ago. The toothbrush as we know it wasn’t invented before the 15th century. So how did people deal with teeth hygiene in the past?
Around 3500 BC in Babylon, people would chew the end of a twig so it would become soft like a brush and they’d use it to clean their teeth. The other end was used as a toothpick. Smart, eh? I can actually see a niche on the market here. Hipster Twigs - get yours today! The Babylonians just didn’t pick any ol’ stick laying around however, they chose twigs from aromatic trees that would freshen their mouth as well as they chewed!
What is interesting is that this method is still being used in some parts of the world. Miswak is one of those twigs that is re-gaining popularity even though it’s been continuously used since the 7th century. It is especially popular in Muslim culture. It also has antibacterial properties, freshens breath, and is also good for the gums. Hippy Sticks- get yours today!
Because the right kind of stick wasn’t always around, people were forced to come up with all sorts of alternatives.
In Egypt 5000 BC they’d use powdered bulls' hooves mixed with incinerated egg shells, natural pumice and myrrh. Greeks and Romans improved upon this recipe with crushed bones and shells.
Hippocrates mentioned cleaning his teeth with mixed ashes from head of hare and not two, but three mice! This would not get Virginic Certification!
Later, chalk, baking soda and some spices were used in favor of animal skulls but for the stuff we recognize as toothpaste, humanity would have to wait until the late 19th century.
Modern toothpaste is great, but for some things such as whitening, getting back to the roots of dental care is where it is at. I’m sure you’ve heard of incinerated coconut shells, a.k.a. activated charcoal powder - it is making a comeback, big time. Buy some today, and smile bigger tomorrow!
Beautiful smiles aside.... The first toothbrush, similar to what we have today, was invented in 1498 by the Chinese. It was made of oxbone (or other animal bone) and hog hair. The preferred hogs were sourced from Siberia and northern China because the colder temperatures meant firmer bristles.
Early toothbrushes were also made from [bamboo], fishbone and bird feathers. Later, ivory and other kinds of wood were used.
Honey, prized for its anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties was even used to soak a dry wool ball, then the honey-ball was chewed.
Of all these methods of tooth care and iterations of toothbrush, the modern toothbrush seems likely to stay, only to be improved upon with subtle tweaks. Although, the electric toothbrush was quite a jump, I must admit, even if they are not always ideal to lug around. Plus, having a spare toothbrush for guests, expected or otherwise ;) is always a good idea.
The toothbrush hit Europe in the 17th century. Europeans preferred softer bristles so they swapped hogs hair for horsetail hair. For the next 200 years they would also import toothbrushes from China, even as one William Addis started the mass production of toothbrushes in England, in 1780.
Prison Life Leads to Toothbrush Breakthrough!
Addis came up with the idea while he was in prison serving time for causing a riot. He decided that using a rag with soot and salt on the teeth was less than ideal. One night, he saved a small bone from a meal, drilled small holes in it, and wove some tufts of bristles into it. He sealed it with glue, and voila - the modern toothbrush was born!
He left prison and started a business selling a nicer version of his Prison Shankbrush and died a rich man 30 years later. Wisdom Toothbrushes was owned and operated by the Addis family until 1996.
In the US the mass production started in 1885, but, believe it or not, brushing teeth with a toothbrush did not become routine until after World War II, when American soldiers had to clean their teeth daily.
Need a little brighter smile? Buy Virginic's Activated Charcoal Toothpaste: Minty Way. Minty Way, minty day. Smile you later!
For a less mostly frivolous, less informative history of the toothbrush click here. You won't regret it... for long.