Brushing Up on Ancient History: Early Oral Hygiene Tools By James Altomare, DDS on April 03, 2020

Young female looks into mirror while rigorously brushing her teethOral hygiene habits are the first line of defense against tooth decay and gum disease. Our skilled dentist, Dr. James Altomare, recommends that patients brush at least twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste that has received the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance.

People have cleaned their teeth using various tools and pastes. This blog post highlights the archaeological evidence from our ancestors, along with information on the more modern advances in oral hygiene products. After you have learned about the history of the toothbrush and toothpaste, contact our Skillman, NJ, dental practice to schedule your next visit.

History of the Toothbrush

A quality toothpaste enhances the cleaning ability of a toothbrush. Neither would work well without the other. The earliest known toothbrushing tools date to around 3500 BC. The Egyptians and Babylonians are known to have used twigs with one frayed end to clean their teeth.

First Bristled Toothbrush

The first toothbrush to make use of bristles was likely first invented by the Chinese in the 15th century. The bristles were hairs from the necks of pigs, and they were attached to a bamboo or bone handle. Through trade, the concept reached Europe soon after. Newer versions in Europe used feathers and horsehairs.

The Modern Toothbrush

The first cleaning device that we might recognize as modern was made in England by William Addis in 1780. The toothbrush was made from cattle bone, and swine bristles were used for the leaning end. The design was further refined into a three-row version in 1844.

Further refinements came with the advent of nylon and other synthetic materials that did not wear down as quickly as animal hair. Nylon quickly became the standard base material for bristles after it was invented by DuPont in 1935.

The Electric Toothbrush

The first electric toothbrush was invented in 1939. American consumers were introduced to their first electric variant, the Broxodent, in 1960. Electric toothbrushes vibrate so that users do not have to manually move the brush back and forth. Modern electric toothbrushes can vibrate several thousand times a minute.

History of Toothpaste

The first evidence of toothpaste predates the earliest tooth-cleaning tools. The Egyptians are believed to have used toothpaste to clean their teeth around 5000BC. Ancient Roman and Greek cultures used toothpaste to whiten their teeth and freshen their breath. The use of pastes for oral health has been documented in India and China as far back as 500BC.

Common Ingredients

The ingredients used in early forms of toothpaste varied widely and included powdered bones, ashes, eggshells, and pumice. Some cultures focused on creating abrasive pastes that would clean thoroughly while others preferred fragrant toothpastes to freshen breath.

Modern Advances

Colgate was an early pioneer of toothpaste that had a cream-like texture. The company began mass-producing toothpaste in jars in 1873. The 20th century saw improvements in the cleaning and germ-fighting ability of toothpaste. Today, most forms of toothpaste contain fluoride, flavoring, coloring, and agents that allow the paste to stay moist and foam.

Schedule Your Dental Visit Today

Our office offers a wide range of cosmetic, restorative, and general dentistry treatment options for you and your family members. To schedule your next visit, please contact our office online or call (609) 921-1020.

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James Altomare, DDS

James Altomare, DDS

Dr. James Altomare and his team of compassionate professionals provide our friendly community with quality dental care. We offer convenient services to best suit your needs including:

  • Late Appointments
  • State-of-the-Art Technology
  • Over Twenty Years of Experience

To schedule an appointment at our dental office serving Skillman, Montgomery, and Princeton, NJ, contact us online or call (609) 921-1020.

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