History of Toothpaste and Toothbrushes

Tooth-brushing has been around for thousands of years, just not in the same way as we do it today.  History is full of interesting ways that people cleaned their teeth, and there is proof of tooth-brushing as early as 5000 BC.  Read on to learn about tooth-sticks and early toothpaste that contained oyster shells.  
Ancient Oral Hygiene

Before recorded history, tree twigs, bird feathers, bones, porcupine quills, and more were used to clean teeth.  Not much else is known about this time period.  

Chinese Oral Hygiene

The Chinese prefered natural ingredients in their toothpaste such as ginseng, mints, and salt.  They developed chewing sticks — aromatic tree twigs — to get rid of buildup and freshen breath.  By the 15th century, they invented the first toothbrush.  They would attach hair from a pig’s neck to a handle made of bamboo or bone.  Eventually, this was brought to Europe.  

Egyptian Oral Hygiene

Egyptians used toothpaste made of mint, iris flowers, peppers, and salt.  This toothpaste concoction has been named the most effective of history’s pastes, even though it caused bleeding gums.  For toothbrushes, they used chew sticks, a stick with one end frayed, and the other sharpened like a toothpick.  

Roman Oral Hygiene

The Greeks and Romans used toothpaste made of things like eggshells, pumice, ox hooves, charcoal, bark, crushed bones, and oyster shells.  Sometimes they even used urine to whiten their teeth.  They used twigs as a toothbrush.  

Modern Oral Hygiene

During the 17th century, the Chinese pig/bamboo toothbrush was brought to Europe.  However, Europeans found the pig bristles too hard, and used horsehair bristles and feather bristles instead. William Addis created the first mass produced toothbrush in 1780.   In 1938, the first synthetic bristled brush was created by DuPont.  It wasn’t until WWII that toothbrushing became common.  Soldiers were required to clean their teeth daily, and that soon became normal.  

In the 1800’s, toothpaste was made of chalk, soap, and charcoal.  Before 1850, toothpaste was a powder, but during that decade, Créme Dentifrice, a toothpaste in a jar was invented.  Colgate introduced their modern tube in 1890.  In 1914, fluoride was added to toothpaste.  

In recent years, toothpastes and toothbrushes have been designed for specific purposes, such as whitening teeth, edible toothpastes for children (actually invented by NASA), chewable toothbrushes (for a one time use), and more.  The first electric toothbrush was invented in 1954, a twist on toothbrush called the Squeezie was invented in 2013, among other clever toothbrush designs.