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Question Who invented the toothbrush and when was it invented?

Answer

Various peoples. 1938 (modern).

Poster from Gellé Frères Perfumers, Avenue de l’Opéra, 6, Paris. J. Cheret, 1889. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

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.

Four children being taught the correct use of a toothbrush by a dental hygienist at the Guggenheim Dental Clinic, between 1940-1945. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

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.

Poster promoting good oral hygiene. Federal Art Project, between 1936 and 1938. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

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.

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