The early history and evolution of the toothbrush has its origin in the "chewingsticks" used by the Babylonians as early as 3500 BC. Ancient Greek and Roman literature even discusses primitive toothpicks that were chewed on to help clean the teeth and mouth.
As the years passed, toothpicks matured into the chew stick which was about the size of a modern pencil. One end was chewed into and became softened and brush-like while the opposite end was pointed and used as a pick to clean food and debris from between the teeth. The twigs used were carefully chosen from aromatic trees that had the ability to clean and freshen the mouth. The earliest literature showing the use of these twigs is found in Chinese literature at around 1600 BC.
The first true bristled toothbrush also originated in China at around 1600 AD. At around 1780, the first toothbrush was made by William Addis of Clerkenald, England. Addis, and later, his descendants, manufactured the finest English brushes, where the handles were carved out of the bone of cattle and the heads of the natural bristles were placed in the bored holes made in the bone and kept in place by thin wire. The natural bristles were obtained from the necks and shoulders of swine, especially from pigs living in colder climates like Siberia and China.
By the early 1800s the bristled brushes were in general use in Europe and Japan. In 1857, H. N. Wadsworth was credited as the first American to receive a toothbrush patent as America entered the growing toothbrush market. In 1844, the first toothbrush was manufactured by hand and patented as a 3-row brush of serrated bristles with larger tufts by Dr. Meyer L. Rhein. In 1885, the Florence Manufacturing Company of Massachusetts, in association with Dr.Rhein, began producing the Pro-phy-lac-tic brush for mass marketing in the United States.
As technology progressed, synthetic bristles replaced the natural swine bristles. Nylon was first applied to the toothbrush at around 1938 and by 1939, electric toothbrushes arrived in an attempt to offer the public a brush that could simulate the action of a manual brush but with better results and cleaning performance.
Hard to believe, but most Americans didn't brush their teeth until soldiers brought the Army's enforced habit back home from World War II. The first real electric toothbrush was produced in 1939, developed in Switzerland. The electrical toothbrush was first marketed in the United States in 1960 by Squibb. The brush was called the Broxodent. General Electric introduced a rechargeable cordless toothbrush in 1961. Interplak was the first rotary action electrical toothbrush for home use, introduced in 1987.
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