At present, the toothbrush and toothpaste market consists of several forms, sizes, and features of the oral hygiene tool. However, before the present-day toothbrush and toothpaste came into the consciousness of people, early human beings used different materials to clean the mouth.
Toothbrush: The Beginning
Before the invention of modern day toothbrush, ancient people relied on their surroundings to “brush” their teeth. They used items such as chew sticks, bird feathers, animal bones, tree twigs, and porcupine quills.
Come late 1400s, the Chinese people developed a oral hygiene tool with stiff hog’s hair attached to a bamboo stick — closely resembling the modern concept of a toothbrush. Meanwhile, Muslims also created their own brush using a miswak, a twig from a Salvadora persica tree, which they use to clean their teeth. On the other hand, ancient Indian medicine made use of neem tree to create toothbrushes.
In 1780, William Addis of England created the very first mass-produced toothbrush. Eighty years after, H.N. Wadsworth held the first patent for a toothbrush. However, despite the early developments, it took more than two decades for the oral hygiene instrument to be mass produced. By 1938, synthetic fibers like nylon replaced bristles made from animal hairs or furs — leading to the birth of the first toothbrush manufactured from nylon yarn on February 24, 1938 which was credited to American conglomerate DuPont.
In 1954, another development came about thanks to Dr. Philippe Guy Woog of Switzerland who invented the first electric toothbrush. The electric toothbrush, which challenged the traditional manual toothbrush market, featured a plugged-in device running on a line voltage. The electric oral hygiene instrument was designed for people undergoing orthodontic treatment and for those with limited motor skills.
A few years later, in the 1960s, General Electric released its rechargeable cordless toothbrush. It is capable of moving up and down.
Toothpaste: The Beginning
The first know account on the use of toothpaste suggested that people in early fourth century A.D. in Egypt used a mixture of pepper, iris flowers, mint leaves, and powdered salt as toothpaste.
Meanwhile, Ancient Chinese people, who were also believed to have been among the first users of toothpaste, created their toothpaste through mixing mashed bones and twigs, salt, water, and flower petals. On the other hand, ancient Indians based their toothpaste use to Ayurvedic medicine wherein people chewed and rubbed rare twigs on their teeth to clean and whiten them.
In the 19th century, people used tooth powders made with chalk, salt, or pulverized brick. Tubed toothpaste came into the picture in 1880 through Dr. Washington Sheffield’s Crème Dentifrice. Colgate then imitated the idea and produced its version called Colgate & Company’s Dental Cream in 1896.
Meanwhile, fluoride, the common ingredient in today’s toothpaste, only made its way to the formula in 1914. In 1960, the American Dental Association endorsed fluoride as an effective ingredient in oral care. Other than fluoride, Triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal agent, was also added into some toothpaste variants. Triclosan serves as an added protection against plaque build-up, bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease.
At present, toothpaste comes in different kinds, colors, sizes, and formula which each aiming to address a particular oral health issue.