Pearly Whites Through the Ages: The History of the Toothbrush

Have you ever wondered how ancient people kept their breath fresh and teeth clean? To be honest, they probably couldn’t really, but at least we know they tried! Your friendly neighborhood Cypress dental team has compiled this fascinating evolution of the toothbrush.

The Beginnings of the Toothbrush


The ancient Babylonians and Egyptians were the first known cultures to take tooth brushing seriously. Between 3500-3000 BCE they were the first to make toothbrushes by fraying the ends of twigs. Many tombs have been found with these tooth-sticks buried alongside all the cosmetics, jewelry and unguents necessary for a beautiful afterlife.

In ancient China, chewing sticks made of twigs from aromatic trees were used to freshen breath beginning around 1600BC, but in the 15th century, the first bristle-type toothbrush was invented. Bristles from a pig’s neck were attached to bone or bamboo handles. Early European explorers brought the idea from Asia to the west where the design was adapted using softer horse hairs and occasionally feathers.

More Modern Times for the Toothbrush


Englishman William Addis created the first modern toothbrush design around 1780, still using cattle bone handles and boar bristles. Natural bristles remained the standard until DuPont invented nylon in 1938, but the first nylon bristles were very coarse and stiff causing discomfort and bleeding. By the 1950’s softer nylon bristles were being made much to the comfort and satisfaction of consumers.

Today we have dozens of types of both manual and electric toothbrushes to choose from depending on our age, tooth shape, gum condition, and special needs. Plastic handles are molded to be straight, angled, curved, or contoured with bristles in a range of textures, generally soft to medium, though harder bristle brushes are still available.

The toothbrush has evolved to become a safe and hygienic tool based on modern science and utilizing ergonomic design. Though the materials have changed and the shapes continue to morph as our knowledge of dental health continues to grow, the basics remain the same. Just like the Egyptians and Babylonians, we have a handle to grip and bristles to clean!

If your teeth could use a professional cleaning, or it’s time for a checkup, give us a call at Fair Lakes Family Dentistry in Cypress, TX! We’d love to see your pearly whites in person!