This text has been kindly made available to us by the Technical Museum of Stockholm
In Africa and Asia grows a bush called the toothbrush tree because twigs from it were used as toothbrushes. More than 500 years ago, traders brought toothbrushes from China to Europe. They were then used by the upper class who ate too much sugar and got bad teeth.
In the 20th century, the toothbrush became cheaper and was used by more and more people. The first toothbrush with nylon bristles went on sale in 1938. The electric toothbrush was invented in Switzerland in 1954. Today, toothbrushes come in all colors and shapes and our teeth are better than they were 100 years ago.
At the Science Museum in London there is a silver toothbrush with horsehair that is said to have belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte. He is said to have brushed his teeth with sand and opium.
Cleaning the teeth has always been important to man. According to a 2002 survey, Americans considered the toothbrush to be the most important invention in history. The agency Pininfarina, which otherwise designs Italian racing cars, has designed a toothbrush - and in the small town of Te Pahu in New Zealand, they have built a toothbrush fence. The fence gained attention after it was mentioned in the television series Flight of the Conchords in 2007 and hundreds of colorful toothbrushes now dangle there from wires in long rows. If you want your toothbrush hung with, for example, former Prime Minister Helen Clark's toothbrush, you should post it to: The Toothbrush Bucket, 294 Limeworks Loop Road, Te Pahu, R D 5, Hamilton, New Zealand.
Chewed stick becomes bristles from pigs
In Egypt, archaeologists have found 5,000-year-old chewed sticks with a fringed end that they believe were used as toothbrushes. Wood species such as the arrack tree have antiseptic properties and strengthen tooth enamel. The Prophet Mohammed is said to have been a frequent user of sticks from the "toothbrush bush". Even on his deathbed he is said to have used his siwak, as these toothbrushes were called.
The first toothbrushes similar to the ones we use today were constructed in China as early as 1498. They were made of bamboo or bone and provided with boar bristles.
Bad dental hygiene makes regents angry?
Gustav Vasa sat on the Swedish throne from 1523-1560. He is known for his bad teeth and his fierce temper. During his time, the food of wealthy people in Europe had begun to be flavored with sugar, which affected dental health. Maybe King Gustav would have ruled differently if a toothbrush had prevented his toothache and violent temper?
But the toothbrush was only mentioned in Europe the same year that Gustav Vasa died, 1560. And it would take some time before it came into general use. In the 1770s, the British tanner William Addis made a toothbrush out of bones and bristles. He started mass production in 1780 and is said to have made a fortune. At this time, people began to realize that it was sugar that was behind caries. Previously, many people believed that it was tooth worms that attacked the teeth.
During the 18th century Enlightenment, scientific research began to lead to many new knowledge. In the 1720s, the French surgeon Pierre Fauchard (1678-1761) published a book on dental health in which he pointed out the role of sugar in tooth decay. Sugar had become an increasingly common ingredient in European food during the 17th and 18th centuries, especially after 1747 when it began to be refined from sugar beets, which could be grown in more northern latitudes than sugar cane. Fauchard also developed a toothpaste that consisted of soap, lime, coral, seashells, water and extracts from the soapwort tree. Instead of a toothbrush, he used a sponge.
Gold and feathers
In Sweden, the court dentist Joël Assur was a forerunner in the early 19th century when it came to spreading knowledge about how to keep teeth clean. He published a book in which he warned of the effects of sugar and recommended the use of toothbrushes and toothpaste. To remove leftover food, Assur suggested gold toothpicks or bird wing quills. His daughter became Sweden's first female dentist.
Expensive becomes cheap
The toothbrush was mainly used in upper class environments and was made in materials such as silver and ivory to show its exclusivity. But at the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century, it began to be used by more and more people. They were made more industrially and from cheaper, less exclusive materials. During the 1880s, toothbrushes were equipped with handles made of the new plastic material celluloid, which was patented in 1869. The brand nylon was launched by the company DuPont in 1938, and already in the same year the material began to be used for toothbrushes. Nylon bristles proved to be significantly better than animal bristles.
Electricity and design
More and more electric household items were produced during the 20th century and the electric toothbrush was designed in 1954 by Phillippe Guy E Woog in Switzerland for use by people with mobility impairments. The invention was launched in the USA in 1959 and is today manufactured by more than 150 different producers worldwide.
In the summer of 2007, an electric toothbrush was launched that cleans the teeth with ultrasound. In recent decades, the most toothbrush design has changed with stretchable handles, tongue scrapers and soft and hard bristles. Although the exclusivity of the toothbrush has disappeared, having white and healthy teeth is still seen as a matter of status, while toothlessness carries a severe stigma for those who suffer from it.