How Were Toothbrushes and Toothpaste Invented – Evolution of Oral Hygiene

Oral hygiene or what is commonly referred to as dental hygiene has been rapidly evolving since its early days.

In the 18th and early 19th century, it was very common to find people in their 30s or 40s missing a few teeth due to tooth decay as a result of poor oral hygiene practices. But with the invention of modern oral hygiene techniques, tools, and treatment technologies and the widespread adoption of oral hygiene routines, we can expect to have all our teeth throughout our lifetime and in the event, we lose some, we can always get implants through dental surgeries.


Today, we can access a variety of toothpaste including herbal and whitening toothpaste from any shop. On the other hand, toothbrushes have become common oral hygiene tools and have also evolved greatly to a point that automatic electric toothbrushes that clean our teeth in a matter of seconds have been invented.

Evolution of toothpaste

In the early days, people used powders and gels made from crushed eggshells, ashes, powdered minerals, flowers, and leaves to scrub/clean their teeth and remove bad breath.

In 1824, Peabody, a dentist, added soap to toothpaste to help clean teeth. Later, soap was replaced by sodium sulfate and Colgate developed the first commercially produced toothpaste in 1873.

In the 19th century, fluoride was discovered to prevent tooth decay and cavities and it started being added to toothpaste in 1914. The United States of America also adopted a law to fluoridate city water in the 1950s; a decision that was endorsed by the American Dental Association

In 1975, the first herbal toothpaste was invented as a substitute for fluoride toothpaste.


Then, in 1987, NASA invited edible toothpaste to enable astronauts to brush their teeth without spitting while in space. Today, edible toothpaste is also used by children who are learning how to brush their teeth.

Later on, the first whitening toothpaste was invented in 1989.

Today, the toothpaste we use mostly contains fluoride, sweeteners, flavoring agents, coloring agents, and other ingredients that enable the toothpaste to remain as a smooth paste and also foam when being used.

Evolution of Toothbrushes

In the early days, people used chewing sticks, toothpicks, and toothbrushes made from animal hair (specifically hairs from cold climate pigs that were pasted on bamboo sticks or animal bones) to clean their teeth until the first nylon-bristled toothbrush was invented in 1938 by Dupont de Nemours.

Toothbrush handles were later invented during the First World War where molds in the shape of the modern-day toothbrush handles were made, filled with molten celluloid, and then the bristles were dipped in the celluloid before being cooled.

The toothbrush designs have since been evolving with different designs being invented for comfort and aesthetics.

In 1960, electric toothbrushes were invented though it took a while before they became common household items. Today, the electric toothbrushes have evolve d from brushes with the normal handles to U-Shaped automatic toothbrushes. And because of the advantages of the electric toothbrushes over the traditional toothbrushes, dentists are increasingly advocating for electric toothbrushes especially for seniors and children since they take over the process of brushing the teeth and effectively do so in a very short time.

Toothbrush evolution

Electric toothbrushes only take about 30 seconds or so to effectively clean all your teeth including teeth implants, which require greater care, compared to using the traditional toothbrushes which require 90-120 seconds to thoroughly and carefully clean all the teeth.


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