In 2003, the toothbrush was declared the number one invention that Americans could not live without, according to the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index. The first ever recorded toothbrush comes from a burial site dating back to 3000 BC, a very primitive twig with a frayed end – known as a chewstick. Used throughout the Muslim world and in Ayurvedic Indian medicine, chewsticks are twigs from the banyan or arak trees and were used for their antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
Where it all started
It was the Chinese who invented brushes made from bamboo and hog bristles and these proved sophisticated enough to be adopted by the European market.
However, it was said that the Europeans found the hog bristle toothbrushes too firm, and preferred softer toothbrushes made of horsehair attached to an ox-bone handle, also an export from China.
Mass produced toothbrushes continued to be imported from China right up until the mid 20th Century. In the United States, mass production of toothbrushes only started in 1885. However, the animal-bristled-brushes proved problematic; they were found to be extremely unhygienic as they retained bacteria and did not dry quickly enough!
This led to a more advanced style of toothbrush to be introduced in the 1900s, with bristles made from synthetic fibres. In the 21st century, the electric toothbrush is now recommended by many dentists. Manufactured with timers and different styles of brush heads for different uses, the toothbrush is highly sophisticated these days. No wonder we canâ€™t do without one.