Who Invented the Electric Toothbrush? Recognising Innovators in Modern Dental Care

who invented the electric toothbrush

Electric toothbrushes are one of the most common modern-day conveniences. It has come a long way since the old simple regular toothbrush. How did this electric hygiene tool come to be? In today’s article, we’re talking about who invented the electric toothbrush and how it’s developed over the years.

Who Invented the Toothbrush?

Toothbrushes have vastly developed over the years. But who invented the toothbrush? Let’s take a look at how they’ve changed from the first ‘toothsticks’ up until now.

In 3000 B.C., before the first toothbrush was invented, excavated tombs of early Egyptians and Babylonians revealed that they used a ‘toothstick’ to clean their teeth. Chew sticks were made from tree twigs. A chew stick is made by splitting the end of a twig.

In 1498, the Chinese invented the first toothbrush with handles and bristles that look similar to toothbrushes in the modern-day. These toothbrushes didn’t use nylon bristles but used hog’s hair. The handles were made from either bone or bamboo and pared with tooth powders made from mint, ginger, and sometimes even charcoal.

Moreover, in 1780, boar bristles were brought back, which sparked an interest in preventing oral diseases.

When Was the First Modern Toothbrush Invented?

William Addis made the first toothbrush with the most modern design in 1780 in England. He created a toothbrush that was carved from cattle bone. Furthermore, the head was made from swine bristles, although some people say toothbrush’ bristles were made of horsehair or feathers.

In 1938, Dupont de Nemours invented the first nylon toothbrush. At that time, people preferred the newer toothbrushes with soft nylon bristles, the ‘miracle toothbrush.’ It had a huge head that was rounded like a toilet brush.

And the toothbrush wasn’t an essential accessory like it is today. In fact, it was like a fashion accessory and built to look beautiful, with the appearance playing a big part in its design and functioning.

Who Invented the First Electric Toothbrush?

The first electric toothbrush dates back to 1954. Dr Phillipe-Guy Woog released the first electric toothbrush in Switzerland after nearly 20 years of designing—the Broxo-dent.

The toothbrush was made available in the United States by the companies E.R. Squibb and Sons Pharmaceuticals. However, the biggest problem with this Broxo electric toothbrush was that it couldn’t be used with an electric wall outlet outside Switzerland.

Towards the 1960s, the first portable electric toothbrush was designed that used NiCAD batteries. But this design made it heavy and bulky, and it had short battery life. And the batteries didn’t last a long time, and you couldn’t replace them. So when the device ran out of battery, you’d have to make an entirely new purchase.

The electric toothbrush developed slowly, with many improvements. Batteries were replaced with lithium-ion rechargeable types that lasted for several days at a time. But, at this point, there was still insufficient evidence that an electric toothbrush was more beneficial for your oral health than a manual one. However, it seemed that people were already willing to pay for electric tools.

Later developments include a timer in the brushes to inform the user that the brush is charging and an indicator to represent when two minutes of brushing were up. There was then a huge development in brush head action with ultrasonic heads creating more vibrations at higher frequencies, along with sensors to detect when you’re brushing.

Why Were Electric Toothbrushes Created?

Electric toothbrushes were invented for patients with reduced motor skills. The cordless General Electric brushes came out in the 1960s. The automatic toothbrush had a charging stand to keep the piece upright, and most toothbrushes were kept in the charger. And the batteries were kept inside the G.E. devices, and you’d have to discard it when the batteries ran out.

Furthermore, the A.C. line voltage appliance in the bathroom, where there are wet conditions, proved to be problematic. But by the 1990s, a step-down transformer was used in newer appliances to power the brush at a low voltage.

Dental Hygiene in World War II

In the Second World War, soldiers were infested with lice and had rotten teeth. A soldier was required to improve their hygiene habits and bathe at least once a week and brush daily. And unit commanders had to inspect soldiers and enforce these orders. Therefore, brushes were supplied to the troops.

Moreover, the arrival of plastics used for mass production in toothbrushes happened during the Second World War, and it wasn’t until Woolworths’ invention in 1908 where people saw nylon materials used for the toothbrush head.

Developments in Modern Dentistry

In 1728, a French physician called Pierre Fauchard was credited for pioneering modern dentistry techniques.

During Fauchard’s time, there was literature on dental health, but dentists still didn’t exist at this point. Therefore, Fauchard chose to create his own research and book in the dentistry field, which paved the way for modern dentistry.

The Origin of Toothpaste

Aside from toothbrush history, we’ll also discuss the origin of toothpaste. Egyptians first invented toothpaste at around 5000 B.C.—which is way before toothbrushes were invented.

Ancient Romans Greeks used toothpaste to clean their teeth, and Chinese and Indians began using toothpaste around 500 B.C.

Moreover, ancient toothpaste was created to freshen breath, whiten teeth, and clean teeth and gums—similar to how we use it today. But the materials weren’t as hygienic as they are today and were more abrasive on your teeth.

Some of the ingredients used in ancient toothpaste included burnt eggshells, hooves’ ashes, and pumice. A wide range of mixtures was made over time, developing into using ginseng, salt, and herbal mints.

Ancient Greeks and Romans used toothpaste with ingredients that included crushed animal bone, tree bark, oyster shells, and charcoal.

What’s the Future Look Like for Electric Toothbrushes?

The future for electric toothbrushes could be an exciting one. At the moment, your toothbrush can connect to your smartphone to detect and monitor your brushing technique. When you use your toothbrush, the app records the number of times you brush your teeth, including the duration and technique. The app can also record your brushing habits as well as provide oral care tips to users.

Below are a few innovations from leading oral care brands.

3-Second Teeth and Gum Care

Furthermore, Unico has the latest type of smart toothbrush that offers tooth care in as quick as 3 seconds. This means you can brush your teeth in the same amount of time as it takes to spray perfume or apply mascara. One thing to note about these brushes from Unico is that they don’t come with a handle like other electric toothbrushes.

Bluetooth-Enabled Toothbrushes

Oral B also has a toothbrush, called Genius X, that is an upgrade from Bluetooth-enabled electric toothbrushes that Oral B has offered before. It’s designed with a pressure sensor in the toothbrush handle and uses artificial intelligence designed in the phone app, which can track the position of the toothbrush in your mouth. By precisely following the movement in your mouth allows the app to track how you brush and offer tips in real-time.

While cleaning your teeth, the brush will highlight areas of your teeth blue to show some areas where you need to make improvements and provide additional care to your teeth.

Brush Head Shapes and Sizes

Another bit that brands are focusing on is the toothbrush’ head, particularly what degree angle it should be. Most brushes have a 45-degree angle, enabling the toothbrush to hit more areas within the mouth and remove any food particles and plaque surrounding the teeth.

Now companies are experimenting with different sizes and shapes to use the brush on all mouth shapes. And experimenting with new shapes and types can allow the electric toothbrush to target hard-to-reach areas in your mouth, including around the gum line and the back of your teeth.

Do You Have Anything Else to Add to the Timeline?

When it comes to the future of electric toothbrushes, we could be using more eco-friendly electric toothbrushes over the years. The power toothbrushes and dental products we will be using will be more efficient and effective.

Now that you’ve learned who invented the electric toothbrush and the evolution of dental hygiene practices, what are your thoughts on modern dental care tools? We’d love to hear about insights that you have about the dental industry.

And if you have tips for improving oral hygiene for kids and adults, share your tips in the comments.

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