The pearlii mascot with his son watching a toothbrush fossil

A brief history of the humble toothbrush

By Team Pearlii2 min read
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Motion settings, pressure detectors, and ionisation... When you’re browsing hundreds of science-fiction style dental inventions, it can be hard to imagine the modest origin of the toothbrush.

Early inventions

As early as 3000 BC we had ‘chew sticks’ for our teeth; a thin twig with a frayed end for cleaning. It might be hard to believe but this style of toothbrush is still common in some areas of the world today.

The bristle toothbrush, similar to the type used today, was not invented until 1498 AD in China. The bristles were actually the stiff, coarse hairs taken from the back of a hog’s neck and attached to handles made of bone or bamboo. Delicious!

Surprisingly, boar bristles were used until 1938, when nylon bristles were introduced by Dupont de Nemours. The first nylon toothbrush was called Doctor West’s Miracle Toothbrush.

If boar bristles don’t sound appealing, you might not have enjoyed living in Medieval Germany. They believed kissing a donkey would cure dental problems! 

The Electric Toothbrush

In the industrial years of the 1800s lots of smart cookies were inventing new products to make life that little bit better.  It was in 1880 that Dr Scott advertised the first electric toothbrush, with just one small hitch - it was not, in fact, electric. Unsurprisingly, this did not catch on. 

A mere 50 years later electric toothbrushes made a resurgence, this time with more success- and electricity! They were initially created for patients with limited motor skills but expanded to the general public. 

Throughout the last 50 years the market has been saturated by brushes of all shapes and sizes. From hands-free to a $4,000 titanium toothbrush, there are an overwhelming variety to choose from. 

At the end of the day, it doesn’t need to be the most high-tech or gold-plated. The most important thing is to get a toothbrush that is gentle and one you enjoy using. Find a toothbrush that makes cleaning your Pearlii whites effortless!

So how do you think you scrub up?

Take our quiz to find out what kind of toothbrush you are.

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