The Ancient History of Toothbrush and Toothpaste By Dr. Everett Heringer on May 08, 2020

Think toothpaste is a recent invention? Think again. Oral hygiene tools date back several thousand years. The 20th century saw important advances that further refined toothbrush and toothpaste to the effective oral health resources they are today. 

Woman looks in mirror as she vigorously brushes her teeth.

Our dentist, Dr. Everett E. Heringer, believes oral health education should be informative and fun. After learning about the history of toothbrush and toothpaste, we welcome you to schedule your next visits to our dental practice that serves Bismarck, ND, and Mandan, ND.    

History of the Toothbrush

The toothbrush is the oral hygiene tool of choice for men, women, and children the world over. The first recorded use of a brush for oral hygiene purposes was between 3500 to 3000 BC when cultures in ancient Egypt and Babylon used twigs with frayed ends to remove plaque from their teeth. Cultures, then as now, found white teeth to be a sign of youth and beauty. 

The First Toothbrush Bristles

Today, the typical toothbrush can contain thousands of thin bristles that work collectively to scrape away plaque before it calcifies to tartar. The development of bristles was an important advancement, and their first use can be traced back to 15th-century China. 

The bristles came from pig neck hairs that were affixed to one end of a bamboo stick. The concept was soon adopted by Europeans, who used horse hairs to fashion bristles. 

The First Modern Toothbrush

The first toothbrush that we would recognize as modern in its design was developed by William Addis in England around 1780. The slender handle was carved from cow bone, while the other end held a row of bristles taken from swine. The design was further refined into a three-row version in the mid-1800s. 

However, animal bristles wore down quickly. A more durable substitute, nylon, was invented in 1935 by the chemical company DuPont. A synthetic polymer is still widely used as the base material for toothbrush bristles.

The Evolution of Toothpaste

Toothpaste dates back surprisingly far. Around 5000 BC, Egyptians used a cleaning paste to remove plaque from their teeth. Ancient Romans made use of paste to whiten their teeth. Early uses of toothpaste may have been used to remove or cover foul odors from the mouth.

The base material of those early forms of toothpaste varied depending on their intended purpose. Flavorings and herbs covered bad breath. In contrast, abrasive ingredients like pumice and crushed bone would have offered better cleaning properties. 

The first mass-produced creamy toothpaste option was developed by Colgate in the late 19th century. The 20th century saw further advances that improved the cleaning power of toothpaste. After the discovery that fluoride could significantly strengthen teeth, the mineral was introduced as a toothpaste additive starting in the mid-20th century. This mineral naturally hardens enamel, which can greatly lower the risk of developing tooth decay. 

Schedule Your Next Visit Today

Oral hygiene tools are nothing new. During your visit to see Dr. Heringer, you can learn about which toothbrush and toothpaste options our dental team recommends. To schedule your next visit, please contact our office online or call us at (701) 255-4850.

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Dr. Everett E. Heringer

Everett E. Heringer, DDS

Dr. Heringer is dedicated to dental excellence and is a member of several prestigious organizations, including:

  • American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
  • World Clinical Laser Institute
  • North Dakota Dental Association
  • SPEAR Dental Education
  • SPEAR Study Club Leader

To schedule your consultation, contact us online or call us at (701) 255-4850.

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