Among the many health fads and rumors going around the web, oil pulling is one that we dentists get asked about a lot. The question is, does oil pulling really prevent tooth decay? Read more
Detox water (also known as skinny water) is promoted as a great all natural way to cleanse the body and lose weight. These do-it-yourself fruit and herb infused water concoctions are supposed to be great for your overall health, but there’s one problem: detox water can be really bad for your teeth! Read more
Root canals have a bad reputation they don’t deserve and we think Hollywood is to blame. Movies and television shows often portray root canal therapy as a painful and frightening procedure. The truth is that most root canal procedures are quite painless Read more
Dental implants are the top-of-the-line when it comes to natural and functional replacements for missing teeth, but that excellence can come with a hefty price tag. Replacing missing teeth can have a positive effect on your health, Read more
Laughing gas is the common name for an inhaled sedative, used in dental care and in medical care. Laughing gas gets its name from the feeling of well-being and giddiness that it can cause. Read more
The use of lasers in dentistry may sound a bit like science fiction, but it’s actually scientific fact! Laser technology was first applied to dentistry in the early 1960s and has been gaining popularity ever since. Read more
Dentists no longer use Novocain when treating patients. No, this doesn’t mean we’ve somehow managed to make dentistry completely painless (we wish!). Read more
We all know that drinking too much sweet sugary soda pop can cause tooth decay. Sodas should only be an occasional treat (like a cupcake or a candy bar), not your main source of hydration or caffeine. To get around this issue and still enjoy a sweet drink, many people turn to sugar-free varieties. The only problem is that sugar-free sodas can cause tooth decay too! Read more
The best way to maintain a healthy smile for a lifetime is great dental health habits. Here are a few hacks to your daily routine beyond the usual brushing and flossing that can help prevent tooth decay. Read more
The modern toothbrush has only been around for about 90 years, but it is the latest in a long evolution of tools to fight tooth decay, stretching back thousands of years and involving a whole range of flora and fauna!
Pre-History – Chewing on Sticks
Long before our ancestors used toothbrushes to ward off tooth decay, people chewed on sticks or twigs to clean their teeth. The earliest chew sticks found date back to 3500 B.C. in Mesopotamia and a tomb from 3000 B.C. in Egypt. Archeological finds also indicate that people used bird feather quills and porcupine spines to pick and clean their teeth.
Chew sticks are still around in the Middle East and northern Africa in the form of miswaks (also called siwaak or sewak). A miswak is made from twigs from the Salvadora persica tree (or arak in Arabic), which is easily frayed to form a brush-like tip at one end. In addition to being an alternative to the toothbrush for cleaning teeth, these sticks are part of pious ritual for many Muslims.
Bone & Bristle Toothbrushes
The next evolution in anti-tooth decay tools came from China, where the first actual toothbrushes were invented. During the Tong Dynasty around the years 600-900, the first bristled toothbrushes appeared. They typically had handles made from bone or bamboo and had bristles made from the stiff hair of northern hogs.
This Chinese invention of bristled toothbrushes eventually made it to Europe in the 1600s. Europeans changed the design by replacing hog hairs with horse hair, which were softer and therefore preferable.
The first mass produced toothbrush was designed by William Addis of England in 1780. (It was around this same time that being a dentist became a formally recognized medical profession, which some scholars correlate with the rise in sugar in European diets due to colonial trade.) Addis actually created the first prototype from a piece of bone when he was briefly in prison! After gaining his freedom, he started mass producing the toothbrush, eventually passing the business on to his son. Their Wisdom Toothbrush company was family owned until the 1990s and still produces modern toothbrushes in Europe.
20th Century Innovation
The next big innovation in toothbrushes came with the invention of nylon by the Du Pont chemical company in the 1930s. From then on, most toothbrushes were made with softer nylon bristles. Not only were they more pleasant to use and easier on the teeth, they were less likely to harbor bacteria like old-fashioned bristles made from animal hair.
The next big invention in toothbrush technology came with addition of electricity. The first electric toothbrush was invented in 1954 and became available in the United States in 1960. Like modern electric toothbrushes, the earliest ones involved a motor that vibrated the brush, supposedly enhancing the action of the bristles.
Who knows what the future of toothbrushing holds (maybe toothbrushing robots!). What every dentist (and patient) knows is that if you stick to using a soft bristled toothbrush (replaced every 3 months) to brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes, there are healthier smiles in your future!