Dental hygiene, an ancient practice: the history of the toothbrush
One of the most frequently asked questions by adults and children is the origin of the toothbrush. There are several schools of thought about when the actual toothbrush was created, but it is necessary to look back to find the first evidence of oral hygiene.
It was believed that the Chinese created the first real toothbrush, or a device that was used to clean teeth, but it was very different from what we are used to today. These early toothbrushes, made in the 15th century, did not use nylon for the bristles or plastic for the handles. They were made with bamboo, one of the most common plants in that area. The bamboo formed the handle for people to hold onto. Attached to this handle was a set of bristles, which were made from the tough hair of the Siberian boar. The hairs used came from the nape of this animal. This is the toothbrush associated with being the ancestor of the one we use today.
However, there is evidence that there was another form of toothbrush dating back to 3000 years before the birth of Christ. Because of this, the history of the toothbrush proves that this device is one of the oldest still used by man, only truly outdated by the wheel. This form of toothbrush was found within the pyramids of the Egyptians. These toothbrushes were made by hand with a stick. Unlike the Chinese version of the toothbrush, the end of the stick was skinned to make the wood fibers softer. This stick was then rubbed against the teeth to serve as a form of oral hygiene. This form of toothbrush did not get as popular as the Chinese version.
The Chinese version of the toothbrush spread to Europe, where the Siberian boar took the brunt of the growing popularity of the invention. The only downside to the Siberian boar hairs was the fact that it was very rough on the gums. Because of this, some people began to use the hairs found on the back of horses to make the bristles for their brushes, as this was much easier on their gums and teeth. Despite the added softness of horsehair bristles, boar hairs were used more often, as horses were too valuable to Europeans during this time period.
The boar hair toothbrush continued to be used until the early 1900s. In 1937, nylon was created at Du Pont Laboratories by Wallace H. Carothers. This invention forever changed the history of the toothbrush, as well as any other device that required a fibrous material, including strings. In 1938, nylon became the sign of modernization, from the creation of nylon stockings to Dr. West’s first nylon toothbrush. This brush was called Dr. West’s Miracle Toothbrush. Even with this advancement in toothbrushing, it wasn’t until World War II that Americans began to take oral hygiene more seriously. This was a direct result of the war. This influence stimulated the development of better toothbrushes.
Toothpaste and whiteners
Another aspect of the toothbrush history to consider is toothpaste and other whiteners. They are usually used with the toothbrush to ensure that the teeth and breath are acceptable. The concept of toothpaste and mouthwash is quite old, almost as old as the Egyptian toothbrush. The first known toothpaste was created by the Egyptians. It was said to contain one drachm of rock salt, two drachms of mint, one drachm of dried iris flowers, and 20 peppercorns. Then it was ground and mixed to form a powder. When mixed with saliva and applied to your teeth, it would help whiten and clean your teeth. When experienced by an Australian dentist, the mixture worked far better than anything created until the 21st century. The only downside was the fact that it made her gums bleed.
In the 18th century, the next recorded version of toothpaste was produced. This mixture called for dragon blood, cinnamon, and burnt alum. This mix tends to be more fun for many scientists, as there is no evidence that the “dragon” existed. What was actually considered dragon blood is unknown.
The 19th century saw many innovations in toothpaste, although many of them would be repulsive compared to what we are used to today. Charcoal, for example, was used to clean teeth. Most of the toothpastes of this era were powders that turned into paste when introduced into saliva. Many of these different toothpastes were designed both to clean the teeth and to give the user better breathing. This is where the modern idea of toothpaste came from and one of the turning points in toothpaste history. The combination of these pastes and the toothbrush worked to ensure a greater chance of cleaner, healthier teeth and gums.
It wasn’t until the 1900s that toothpastes evolved to be more modern. Colgate, and many other toothpaste companies, worked to design toothpastes that tasted good while providing the means to clean teeth without bleeding gums. Today, many ingredients are used in toothpastes, fluoride being one of the most common. There is also a wide variety of “herbal” toothpastes, which do not contain this component. Each of these types is designed to suit the needs and desires of each type of person. This high level of choice is the main evolution of toothpastes. While only a few were available in Egyptian times, there is now something for everyone.
The combination of toothpaste and modern toothbrush gives everyone the oral hygiene and dental health they need in order to have the bright teeth that so many desire. This combination also helps prevent the loss of your teeth later in life, which is why dentures are not needed so soon. The history of the toothbrush and toothpaste is not to be despised, as the options used back then were not as pleasant as the types available today.