The Evolution of the Toothbrush- From then to now!

How the art of tooth brushing evolved!

From the Babylonians to the Egyptians, and then the Greek and Roman civilizations, discovered primitive forms of brushing and it gradually evolved. If in 3000 BC twigs were used, in 1600 BC, the Chinese used twigs of certain aromatic plants so that it ensured a fresh breath.

Back in the era, rough cloth was used as a tooth brush to effectively brush and clean teeth. Using the finger to roughly brush the teeth has been in practice since ancient times. And even today, in many parts of the world, some coarse homemade toothpowder and the finger were used to clean teeth.


In India, the ancient Indian Science, Ayurveda too has recorded the important of tooth brushing and also recommended it strongly.

Here are some fascinating tidbits about your toothbrush:

  • The earliest form of toothbrush recorded in history was used by the ancient Egyptian and Babylonian civilizations, way back in 3000 BC, wherein they used a crude form of toothbrush a ‘chew stick’ which was a twig whose ends were worn out in its literal sense.
  • Some monks from China were said to have used a primitive form of toothbrush to clean their teeth and the same was documented by a Japanese Zen master, Dōgen Kigen, who was visiting China in 1223 AD.
  • The first bristled toothbrush was discovered by the Chinese in 1498.
  • Until the year 1938, it was boar or hog bristles that were in vogue.
  • In 1938, nylon bristles proved a good replacement to boar bristles and it was pioneered by Dupont de Nemours.
  • Doctor West's Miracle Toothbrush was the name given to the first nylon toothbrush.
  • Did you know that the toothbrush was actually patented? Yes! It was H.N. Wadsworth, an American who first patented the toothbrush in the year 1857.
  • Mass production of the toothbrush started in the year 1780 in England and it was manufactured by the pioneer of the modern toothbrush design, William Addis. He designed a handle carved out from animal bone and he used hog bristles.
  • It was in 1844, that the world saw the first ever 3-row bristle brush design.
  • The first ever electric toothbrush to be launched was in 1960, in America. It was launched by a company named Squibb and it was marketed under the brand name, Broxodent.
  • Unbelievable, yet true! And the icing on the cake of course. As per a Lemelson-MIT survey taken in the year January 2003, people were asked to grade certain inventions like the computer, cell phone, automobile, and the microwave. And do you know which item topped the list? Yes or no? No marks for guessing, it was the humble toothbrush! People rated it number one, simply because of its benefits and the fact that in a way we really cannot start our day without it and we cannot do without it.

The potent Miswak- The original plant-based toothbrush


Many civilizations including the Indians, Arabs, Chinese, and the Africans, learnt about the potent benefits of the miswak or the chew stick and relied upon it to help keep their teeth healthy and clean. The miswak comes from the Salvadora persica tree and it was a tree with many medicinal benefits. It is also referred to as ‘the toothbrush tree’ in some parts of the world. The plant was revered and held sacred in certain communities. And to date, it is still relied upon for its many benefits. In India, it is used in herbal toothpaste formulations.

Last updated on 03 July, 2017.

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