Fun Facts: Dental Hygiene through History

Dental hygiene throughout history

From hog bristle to electric toothbrushes, products for dental hygiene have come a long way throughout history. In case you were wondering who invented the first toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss, check out these interesting facts about origins of the dental products we use today.

A history of a toothbrush

  • It is believed that the first people to use a toothbrush were the Hindus of India who used the end of a fresh twig.
  • In 4000 B.C. this twig was frayed into fibers, and in 3500 B.C. they started calling it a “chewing stick”.
  • In 1600, the Chinese made a toothbrush out of hog bristles.
  • In 1780, William Addis of England invented a brush with a handle made from cattle bone and the bristles were from swine.
  • The first toothbrush, as we know it today, was invented in 1857 by an American named H.N. Wadsworth, while Dr. Meyer Rhein patented a three-row toothbrush of serrated bristles with larger tufts.
  • It wasn’t until 1938 that nylon brushes with plastic handles were invented. The nylon bristles were gentler to the teeth and gums.
  • The first electric toothbrush was introduced at the 100th Anniversary of the American Dental Association (ADA) in 1959.

dental hygiene


Toothpaste recipe

  • A manuscript from Egypt in the 4th century C.E. describes a toothpaste as a mixture of powdered salt, pepper, mint leaves and iris flowers.
  • The Greeks and the Romans improved the toothpaste recipe by adding abrasives such as crushed bones and oyster shells.
  • In the 18th-century, toothpaste recipes contained burnt bread.
  • In 1892, Dr. Washington Sheffield manufactured toothpaste into a collapsible tube.
  • By 1900, a paste made of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda was recommended for use with toothbrushes.
  • In 1914 fluoride was added to toothpaste recipe. At first, it was criticized by the American Dental Association (ADA) in 1937, but in 1950 the ADA approved it.


History of flossing


Flossing through centuries

  • Dental floss made from a thin thread of silk was invented in 1815 by a New Orleans dentist named Levi Spear Parmly.
  • It wasn’t until 1882 that floss was manufactured using unwaxed silk by the Codman and Shurtleft Company in Randolph, Massachusetts.
  • In 1896, the Johnson & Johnson Company released dental floss made from silk surgical sutures.
  • After World War II, a medical doctor named Charles Bass introduced nylon, which had more advantages over silk floss.
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  • Feb 17,2017 at 8:00 pm

    There is certainly a great deal to know about this topic.
    I like all of the points you made.

  • Barbara Tryon
    Feb 7,2017 at 6:16 pm

    Great History. So glad it been improved through out the centuries.

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