History of Everyday Objects : Toothbrush


Welcome to History of Everyday Objects. Here,we unveil the origins of life through the ages on planet Earth, by looking at the everyday objects . Today, we explore the origins of Toothbrush.

Toothbrush: An Origins Story

The “chewing stick” was the first device used for cleaning teeth. It was developed around 3500-3000 BC in Babylonia, and was preceded only by the age-old ‘index finger technique’ of brushing. In the Middle East, this stick, known as miswak was made from the Arak tree. It is noteworthy that miswak sticks have antibacterial properties and are still used by people today!

The brushes invented by the Chinese were made of bone or wood, with prickly pig hairs for bristles. The first toothbrush for the European market showed up in 1780, made by William Addis. Legend has it that he came up with the idea of manufacturing the toothbrush while serving time in prison.

The Evolution

The first patented toothbrush was invented by H. N. Wadsworth and came as late as 1857. Wadsworth’s brush improved on previous ones by clustering the bristles in several groups and tapering the end of the brush. Through this development, the instrument was “intended to force its way far back in the mouth”.

In the year 1938 nylon bristles were developed. Nylon was easy to produce in mass quantities, and certainly more appealing (and animal friendly) than boar bristles and hair from other animals.

The first electric dental brush was invented in Switzerland after World War I. It was originally intended for the handicapped or people with braces. The idea made its way to America in 1959, and E. R. Squibb and Sons Pharmaceuticals sold the first electric toothbrush.

The first sonic toothbrush was patented by Robert T. Bock in 1992. Fascinatingly, this brush has the ability to scrub your teeth with sound waves at hundreds of millions of vibrations a minute.

Renovating Design:

Inspired by our disposal economy and a need for a more conscious design, three companies – Enevor prototype, Quip and Gud Well are in the process of developing prototypes that will reinvent the toothbrush yet again.

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