(919) 238-7729   |   13220 Strickland Rd. Suite 166 Raleigh, NC, 27613
(919) 890-5147   |   3811 Ed Drive, Suite 120 Raleigh, NC 27612
3811 Ed Drive, Suite 120 Raleigh, NC 27612 (919) 890-5147

Request Appointment
Book Now

The Surprising History of Brushing Teeth

From Bristles to Batteries

In the ongoing journey towards oral health, the history of brushing teeth stands as a vital practice dating back to 3000 BC. The earliest known form of a toothbrush came from the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Babylonia, where people used a “chew stick” – a twig with a frayed end to clean their teeth. 

The evolution of tooth brushing was driven by the increasing understanding of the importance of oral hygiene and its connection to overall health. In the 20th century, advancements in technology and materials led to the development of nylon-bristled brushes and, later, electric toothbrushes. These innovations made tooth brushing more effective and accessible, leading to improved dental health and a broader awareness of the importance of regular oral care. 

Today, tooth brushing is recognized globally as a fundamental component of oral hygiene, with a variety of toothbrush designs available for different needs, further reflecting our ongoing commitment to oral health.



Ancient History of Brushing Teeth

The history of brushing teeth is as intriguing as it is multifaceted, with its roots tracing back to various ancient civilizations worldwide. It is believed that the practice of tooth brushing was first introduced by the Egyptians and Babylonians around 3000 BC. This early adoption of oral hygiene resulted from a realization that cleanliness was paramount in averting decay and disease.

The Egyptians and Babylonians invented the earliest known form of a toothbrush, referred to as a “chew stick.” This rudimentary tool consisted of a twig fashioned with a frayed end, which was used to scrub the teeth clean. The chew stick was an effective tool in its own right, albeit crude when compared to the more sophisticated designs that would emerge in later centuries.

Meanwhile, in the East, the Chinese were developing their version of the toothbrush. Around 1498 AD, they created a tool that bore a closer resemblance to the modern toothbrush we are familiar with today. This toothbrush featured bristles sourced from the necks of pigs, known for their toughness and durability. These bristles were then attached to a handle made out of natural materials, typically bone or bamboo. This design marked a significant advancement in the evolution of the toothbrush, laying the groundwork for future innovations in oral hygiene.

Each of these cultures recognized the importance of oral hygiene, and the tools they created were direct responses to the need for effective methods of maintaining oral cleanliness. Even though the design and materials have evolved over time, the purpose of tooth brushing — to keep the mouth clean and prevent oral diseases — remains the same. Today, we continue to celebrate this timeless tradition that has contributed significantly to our understanding and practice of oral health.



15th Century To 18th Century Advancements

The time period spanning the 15th to the 18th century marked significant advancements in the history of brushing teeth. In the 17th century, tooth brushing was largely seen as a practice for upper class. This was particularly true in Europe, where the practice of oral hygiene was often regarded as a luxury, and toothbrushes were expensive and hard to come by. However, towards the end of the 17th century, the practice began to spread among the general population, driven by the increased awareness of the importance of oral hygiene.

The 18th century saw the popularization of toothbrushing across Europe and America. During this era, toothbrushes were often made with handles of wood, ivory, or bone, and the bristles were usually made from horsehair or feathers. While these designs were a far cry from our contemporary toothbrushes, they represented a significant step forward in the quest for improved oral hygiene.

During this historical period, tooth powders also gained popularity as a means of cleaning teeth. These powders were typically made from pulverized brick, chalk, or salt and were used in conjunction with a toothbrush to cleanse the teeth and freshen the breath. This practice was a precursor to the development of toothpaste in the 19th century.



Modern History of Brushing Teeth

Despite the significant advancements in toothbrush technology, the journey didn’t stop at the invention of the nylon bristle toothbrush in the 1930s. As the 20th century progressed, toothbrush design continued to evolve to become more comfortable and effective. The toothbrush handles became ergonomic, offering better grip and control, and the head of the toothbrush was reduced in size to accommodate the hard-to-reach areas in the mouth. 

Simultaneously, the bristles themselves underwent a revolution. From the initially hard nylon bristles, manufacturers moved towards softer, more flexible bristles that were gentle on the gums and teeth yet effective in removing plaque. Different shapes, sizes, and arrangements of bristles were also experimented with to enhance the toothbrush’s effectiveness.

The turning point in the history of tooth brushing came as we neared the end of the 20th century with the birth of the electric toothbrush. In 1960, the first electric toothbrush, Broxodent, was introduced in the USA, representing a significant leap in oral hygiene technology. These toothbrushes utilized rapid back-and-forth or rotation-oscillation movements of the bristles to clean teeth — a technique that proved to be more effective than manual brushing. With time, electric toothbrushes incorporated advanced features such as timers, pressure sensors, and even Bluetooth connectivity, providing a custom, high-efficiency toothbrushing experience that significantly improved oral health. The evolution of the toothbrush, from the crude chew sticks of ancient civilizations to the sophisticated electric toothbrushes of today, is a testament to mankind’s relentless quest for better health and well-being.



Modern Dentistry: Russo Dentistry in Raleigh, NC

At Russo Dentistry, we proudly position ourselves at the forefront of modern dental practices. We deeply care about the health and beauty of your teeth, utilizing the latest dental technologies and methodologies to ensure that you receive the very best in oral care. Our team, comprised of highly trained and experienced professionals, is committed to delivering the highest quality dental services in Raleigh, Cary, and Durham.

Our approach to dentistry goes beyond merely treating dental issues. We are passionate about education and transparency, empowering our patients with knowledge about oral health and preventive measures to maintain a healthy, radiant smile. We strongly believe that a beautiful, healthy mouth is a gateway to overall wellness.

If you reside in Raleigh and are seeking a dental practice that prioritizes your oral health, then Russo Dentistry is the place for you. We invite you to schedule an appointment with us and experience a fresh approach to dentistry, where quality, integrity, and your well-being are our topmost priorities.