A toothbrush is such a common household staple that we completely take it for granted. Along with many bathroom accessories such as the hairbrush, the face sponge and the razor, these items exist to help make our lives and routines easier and better. But has anyone stopped to wonder who invented the humble toothbrush?

Early tooth and gum care

The first signs of man using an implement to clean teeth and gums date back thousands of years to 3500 BC, where historians have found evidence that people were chewing tatty-ended twigs to help keep their mouths clean. They used the frayed fibres within the twigs to help dislodge food from between teeth and prevent gum disease. Although this may sound far removed from our perceptions of a good teeth cleaning regime now, this is still practiced in some areas of the word today. In some areas of Africa, a tooth twig called a “datun” is used and can be surprisingly effective.

Bristol dentist evolution of toothbrushIn the fifteenth century, the Chinese first invented a bristled toothbrush. These resembled the modern toothbrushes we use today but were made from materials available then. The handle was something rigid, usually bone or bamboo, and the bristles were made from hair taken from a hog’s neck. These hairs were rough and thick, so essentially did the same job of removing food and bacteria from teeth and gums as the man-made toothbrushes we use today. Not the most appealing thing to put in your mouth though.

The modern toothbrush

Incredibly, toothbrushes with bristles made from animal hair survived all the way into the twentieth century, and it wasn’t until 1938 when they were replaced with nylon bristles. The French company DuPont de Nemours first thought to use nylon as a substitute for animal hairs and this approach has been used ever since. Nylon, although commonplace now, had only just been invented at this time, having been launched in 1935/36.

Interestingly, electric toothbrushes are a lot older than many people realise. They were pioneered in 1939 in Switzerland but were not readily available on the mass market until the 1960s. Nowadays people can choose whether they favour the manual or electric toothbrush and there are thousands of options available.

Here at CK Dental we have evaluated the benefits of brushing with electric versus manual toothbrushes (click here to read our post on this) and believe that both have merit. Providing you are using either type of brush correctly and spending an appropriate length of time brushing your teeth each day (we would recommend twice a day for at least two minutes per session) then this should help maintain healthy teeth and gums.


baby teeth Bristol dentistsMilk teeth is the name given to the tiny teeth that young children get before their adult teeth come through. Milk teeth start to come through from as early as five to ten months old and stay with infants until they are around 5 or 6 years old before they gradually start falling out. This continues, with milk teeth being replaced by adult teeth for a number of years, with most children losing most of their milk teeth by around 10 or 12 years old. However, some people don’t lose their back milk teeth until well into their late teens.

Although the milk teeth are temporary, they are paving the way for the adult teeth that you’ll keep for the rest of your life. So what happens if one gets knocked out?

Prematurely lost milk teeth

If an adult tooth is knocked out, the advice is to put it back in as quickly as possible and to seek urgent dental help. If a milk tooth is knocked out it is important that you do not try and place it back into the hole it came from as it is impossible to tell how developed the adult tooth is underneath. If you try to re-insert a knocked out milk tooth then you can accidentally harm the adult tooth below.

If a child has lost a milk tooth prematurely, keep the tooth clean, don’t touch the root and store it in milk until you can get to the dentist – which you must do urgently.

If a milk tooth is knocked out before it is ready then it can have implications on the adult teeth below. Adult teeth will move in to fill spaces vacated by missing milk teeth, so if one gets knocked out and leaves a space earlier than it should do then this can lead to overcrowding of adult teeth later in life.

Overcrowded teeth can be fixed by a range of different orthodontic options like braces, but it is always better to try to avoid overcrowding occurring, rather than having to fix it later in life.

Here at CK Dental we advise taking great care of milk teeth as they set up your child’s mouth for the rest of their lives. Keep milk teeth clean, brush them regularly and if your child is interested in sports then encourage them to wear a gum shield to protect delicate milk teeth from taking a knock. Remember, if an accident occurs and a milk tooth is damaged, come to see us as quickly as possible so that we can help prevent further damage.

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Get In Touch

Email: info@ckdental.co.uk

Telephone: 0117 9059 866

CK Dental | Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital – The Chesterfield, 3 Clifton Hill, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1BN