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    Who invented the toothbrush and when was it invented?


    Various Peoples. 1938 (modern).

The toothbrush as we know it today was not invented until 1938. However, early forms of the toothbrush have been in existence since 3000 BC. Ancient civilizations used a "chew stick," which was a thin twig with a frayed end. These 'chew sticks' were rubbed against the teeth.

The bristle toothbrush, similar to the type used today, was not invented until 1498 in China. The bristles were actually the stiff, coarse hairs taken from the back of a hog's neck and attached to handles made of bone or bamboo.

Boar bristles were used until 1938, when nylon bristles were introduced by Dupont de Nemours. The first nylon toothbrush was called Doctor West's Miracle Toothbrush. Later, Americans were influenced by the disciplined hygiene habits of soldiers from World War II. They became increasingly concerned with the practice of good oral hygiene and quickly adopted the nylon toothbrush.

Some other interesting toothbrush facts:

  • The first mass-produced toothbrush was made by William Addis of Clerkenwald, England, around 1780.
  • The first American to patent a toothbrush was H. N. Wadsworth, (patent number 18,653,) on Nov. 7, 1857.
  • Mass production of toothbrushes began in America around 1885.
  • One of the first electric toothbrushes to hit the American market was in 1960. It was marketed by the Squibb company under the name Broxodent.
Standard DisclaimerRelated Web Sites
  • - A Comprehensive History of Dentistry and Dental Care - This site discusses the history of the toothbrush and toothpaste, including the first electric toothbrush invented in 1939.
  • Dental Care in Early America - from George Washington's Ferry Farm and Historic Kenmore. Dental care has improved greatly in 200 years but the seeds of modern tooth care can certainly be seen when looking back to colonial days.
  • Dental Health - United States War office, 1945. From the National Library of Medicine, this military training film on dental health was designed for army troops. Over appropriate animation and classroom scenes, a narrator/dental officer explains the structure and function of human teeth. Shots include troops exercising, troops in the mess hall, and George Washington's dentures.
  • The Quest for the Perfect Toothbrush - National Public Radio’s Joe Palca looks at toothbrush patents and innovations in design over the years.
  • History of Dentistry from the American Dental Association (ADA) - ADA provides a time line of important dentistry events and innovations.
  • How Products are Made: Toothbrush - Explains and details the manufacturing process of the toothbrush. Content within the website, except those explicitly noted otherwise, are Copyright by Thomson Gale.

Library of Congress Web SiteFurther Reading
  • Asimov, Isaac, and Carrie Dierks. Why do we need to brush our teeth? Milwaukee, G. Stevens Pub., 1993. 24 p. (Juvenile).
  • Elvin-Lewis, Memory and Walter H. Lewis. The use of Nature's toothbrush: the chewing stick. Research Reports - National Geographic Society, v.16, 1975: 211-231.
  • Giscard d'Estaing, Valerie-Anne. The second world almanac book of inventions. New York, World Almanac, 1986. 352 p.
  • Golden, Irwin B. Teeth for your lifetime: a complete, easy-to-read, and understandable guide to a lifetime of dental health. Upland, Calif., Counterpoint Publications, c1993. 106 p.
  • McGrath, Kimberley A., and Bridget Travers, eds. World of Invention. Detroit, Gale, 1999. 1043 (See especially p. 805-806 for Toothbrush and Toothpaste).
  • Panati, Charles. Extraordinary origins of everyday things. New York, Harper & Row, 1987: p.208-10.
  • Weinbeger, Bernhard Wolf. An introduction to the history of dentistry, with medical, dental, chronology & bibliographic data. St. Louis, C.V. Mosby Company, 1948.
    2 v.

SearchFor more print resources...
Search on "toothbrush," "oral hygiene" or "dentistry" in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.

Image: see caption below
Free dental care for children at the Guggenheim Dental Clinic... [between 1940 and 1945?]. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Image: see caption below
Z madrej wiewioreczki dobry przyklad biore : I ja co dzien myje zabki rano i wieczorem [I follow the good example of the wise squirrel : and each day I brush my teeth morning and evening]. Julitta Gadomska, artist,1966. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Image: see caption below
Brooklyn, New York. Red Hook housing project. Annette Caputo brushes her teeth. Arthur Rothstein, photographer, 1942. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

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 September 18, 2018
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