The First Toothbrush

March 12, 2013 in Trivia

Doctor West Miracle Tooth BrushQ: Who invented the first toothbrush?

A: Early forms of the toothbrush have existed since around 3000 B.C. Ancient peoples would fray the end of a twig, using it rub against their teeth  to clean them. These simple predecessors of the modern toothbrush were referred to as “chew sticks”.

The first bristle toothbrush is said to be invented by the Chinese in 1498. This early model is described as having bristles set at a right angle to the handle of the brush, much the same as modern counterparts. Those bristles were the stiff hairs taken from the back of a boar’s neck, attached to a handle of bamboo or bone.

The invention spread to Europe during the 17th century, brought back by travelers.

Sir Ralph Verney of Britain describes on a trip to Paris in 1649, “little brushes for making cleane of the teeth, most covered with sylver and some few with gold and sylver twiste, together with some petits bouettes to put them in.”

In 1857, the toothbrush was patented in the United States by H. N. Wadsworth (patent number 18,653). These brushes consisted of a bone handle drilled with holes to hold Siberian boar’s hair. Mass production began in 1885.

It was not until 1938 that the modern incarnation of the toothbrush finally appeared. Introduced by Dupont de Nemours, it was called “Doctor West’s Miracle Tuft”. It was the first to use nylon bristles. These were considered superior to animal hair, which tended to fall out, not dry well, and retain bacteria.