The History of the Toothbrush from Your Rochester Dentist

When you’re brushing your teeth at night, with warm running water and great-tasting toothpaste, have you ever wondered how people in the past brushed their teeth or cleaned their mouths? Have you wondered when the toothbrush was invented? Our team at Calcagno Cosmetic & Family Dentistry found the answers to these questions and much more.

Oral Hygiene Methods Throughout History

  • Sumerians cleaned their teeth with twigs thousands of years ago.
  • Ancient Egyptians perfected the use of a twig to clean teeth. One end was pointed for cleaning between teeth and the opposite, frayed end acted as a rudimentary toothbrush.
  • People in Egypt and Greece realized that abrasive agents cleaned teeth. Toothpaste in Ancient Egypt consisted of ground stone mixed with vinegar while Greeks used crushed sea shells and wine.
  • Chinese monks attached horse tail to ox bone or bamboo sticks to brush their teeth.
  • In 1790, the first modern toothbrush was manufactured in large quantities in England.
  • In the 19th and early 20th centuries, toothpaste was packaged in powder form. A family would share the same disk of powder. After wetting the bristles of a toothbrush, everyone would swirl their brush in the powder to form a paste.
  • Before World War II, many Americans did not practice good oral hygiene. The military required that soldiers brushed their teeth daily. When soldiers returned home from war, they maintained their good oral hygiene practices. Civilians followed suit and began brushing their teeth regularly.

Fortunately, oral hygiene methods, toothpastes, and toothbrushes have evolved considerably over the years. We think it’s safe to say that modern people are lucky to have access to great dental care, too.

If it’s time to schedule an appointment, contact our Rochester dentist office at (507) 281-3659. Dr. Gilly Calcagno offers cosmetic, restorative, and preventive dental services to residents from Rochester, St. Charles, Red Wing, Winona, Hastings, Farmington, and the surrounding communities.