When was the toothbrush invented? From ancient Babylon to a prison cell, and the future!

Have you ever wondered about the history of toothbrushes? For example, when was the toothbrush invented? Nowadays you see toothbrushes everywhere! The toothbrush has become an item that if you do not have, you are the weird one. But that was not the case when it all started. We know history can be boring sometimes, but give it a try. You never know what fun facts you might find. With this said let’s dive into the history of the toothbrush.

When was the toothbrush invented?

Well, the first modern toothbrush that we know and use today was made in 1780. Later in the year 1844 the first 3-row bristle toothbrush was introduced. But, obviously, people were cleaning their teeth way before the 18th century. We’ll explore the ancient history of the toothbrush in a second. 

Who invented the toothbrush?

If we have to name one person in the history of the toothbrush it has to be William Addis. He is the person who invented the first toothbrush that later became the mass-produced manual toothbrushes we use today.

Why was the toothbrush invented?

As the famous saying goes “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Teeth are important tools in keeping you alive. They help you eat food and without them, eating can become a real challenge. Not only that unhealthy teeth affect your general health as well. All of these have been recognized by people living in the past and due to that have tried to create something to help them maintain their oral health. And that has brought us the toothbrush you know and use today.

Where was the toothbrush invented?

There is no one place where you can pinpoint the invention of toothbrushes. Many ancient civilizations developed their own way of keeping teeth clean by using different methods and materials. The first ancient toothbrushes were aromatic tree twigs that people used to keep their teeth clean. This started in Babylonia and Egypt. But this is not the toothbrush we use today. The toothbrush which was the mother of brushes to give birth to the rest of them was invented in England by William Addis. Moving on to the electric toothbrush was invented in Switzerland and later on manufactured in France.

The historical timeline of the toothbrush

As human beings, we tend to forget the humble beginnings of things, especially something as normal as a toothbrush. Yes, nowadays we are so used to toothbrushes that it is just one of the normal dental hygiene products. But this has not been the case throughout history. So, when was the toothbrush invented? The production of toothbrushes has had its own journey which we will tell you about here.

Let’s go back in time: Ancient Babylonia

The first record of toothbrushes goes back to ancient Babylonia. Dating back to 3000 to 3500 BC, Babylonians were using chewing sticks to clean their teeth. Later on, chew sticks gained popularity as part of the Islamic tradition. To this day babool chewing stick is still used as a form of teeth cleaning.

Next destination: China

Let’s travel far more to the east now. Yes, we are going to China! In the Tang Dynasty bristled toothbrushes were used. Those toothbrushes had bone handles or bamboo handles and the bristles were made out of hog hair. In the 17th century, Europeans started bringing back these toothbrushes to Europe. But these Chinese toothbrushes had hard natural bristles. In Europe, other types of animal bristles became popular such as horse hair since they were not coarse hairs and did not hurt as much. But the mass-produced toothbrush came a bit later.

Unexpected beginnings: a prison cell

So how was the toothbrush invented? The modern toothbrush that we know and use today is a mass production of the prototype that came to be into existence by a man named William Addis in the 18th century. What makes this bit of toothbrush history interesting is the fact that William Addis made his toothbrush prototype in prison! What inspired him is still unknown. He was resourceful and used animal bones and boar hair to make his toothbrush. Sounds less than ideal but he had to make do with what he had. After his release from prison, he established his company named Wisdom toothbrushes.

No more animals

The big leap for toothbrushes came when nylon was invented. The company Dupont de Nemours made nylon toothbrushes with nylon bristles instead of animal hair in 1938. This was a big change and nylon toothbrushes became popular in the 1950s. By this time tooth brushing habits were becoming more important than before.

The age of electricity

Later on, Dr. Philippe Guy Woog invented the electric toothbrush in 1954 and it was known as Broxodent. This type of toothbrush was plugged into an outlet and was compatible with the line voltage. Initially, electric toothbrushes were made for people with limited mobility and later became household items.

The evolution of toothbrush: Ancient to the modern era

The first known devices to be used to clean teeth looked nothing like the oral hygiene products we know today. Frayed twigs which resembled toothbrush bristles were used to remove dental plaque and food debris from teeth.

Soon societies started advancing and people started to notice the importance of oral health. It was at this time that toothbrushes that looked more like modern ones were developed.

We stepped into a new era of oral care with the invention of nylon bristle toothbrushes. Natural bristle toothbrushes lost their popularity due to the fact that they would easily harbor bacteria and mold.

Now, toothbrushes come in different shapes and sizes that we can’t even imagine. You can choose from the many toothbrush models the one that best serves your dental health needs. If you are not sure which toothbrush to choose talk with your dentist.

The future of toothbrush technology

Toothbrushes have not changed much ever since they became mass-produced first. But with technology affecting every aspect of life, it will be no surprise that soon dental care products will change too. Even now with the wide variety of manual toothbrushes and electric ones, you can see new products becoming trendy and taking over the market.

Musical toothbrush

To help children build a daily routine of brushing their teeth scientists have come up with the musical toothbrush. With this toothbrush, the built-in musical part starts playing music as soon as brushing starts and continues until it is finished.

And here, we will tell you about a few toothbrushes that somehow use different types of light to help you clean your teeth more efficiently.

Optic sensor toothbrush

This toothbrush can help detect plaque buildup in hard-to-reach places in your mouth. With a built-in camera, it connects to your smartphone and can tell you where to brush better to get rid of plaque accumulation. When the buildup is clean it will signal you to move on to the next tooth.

Caries-detection toothbrush

Have you ever noticed those brown or black dots on your teeth? Those will eventually turn into cavities if you do not take care of your teeth. But with this toothbrush and its laser technology, you can easily find them.

Light therapy electric toothbrush

With this brush, there are two types of light built in near-infrared and near-ultraviolet. It has three modes. You can have red, blue, or purple light. Each of these lights has its own properties. With blue light, you can kill the microbes and teeth whitening. Red light helps with reducing inflammation and tissue regeneration. And lastly purple light has antibacterial properties.

Laser toothbrush

Laser therapy is a popular method of treatment for people with tooth sensitivity and removing bacteria during root canal treatments. With the advancement of technology in dentistry scientists have made a brush that comes with built-in low-level laser therapy. The laser inside is a diode laser which is safe for home care devices. 

Did you know these facts about toothbrushes?

There is always something interesting or maybe even unexpected when you are reading about the history of something. We have gathered here a few fun facts about toothbrushes!

Fun fact 1: In 2003, the toothbrush was chosen as the #1 invention people can’t live without, beating out cell phones and cars.

Fun fact 2: The world’s most expensive toothbrush costs US$4,000. It’s made of titanium – and it isn’t even electric!

Fun fact 3: The average person spends a total of 38.5 days brushing their teeth during their lifetime.

Fun fact 4: The average toothbrush contains around 2,500 bristles.

Fun fact 5: Using toothbrushes as oral hygiene practices was not popular until soldiers returning to the US after World War II brought this habit back with them.

Fun fact 6: Napoleon Bonaparte’s toothbrush was made out of silver and the bristles were made out of horse hair.

Did you enjoy these fun facts? We have 26 more dental fun facts you can learn about!


-Sharma A, Sankhla B, Parkar SM, Hongal S, K T, Cg A. Effect of traditionally used neem and babool chewing stick (datun) on streptococcus mutans: an in-vitro study. J Clin Diagn Res. 2014 Jul;8(7):ZC15-7. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2014/9817.4549. Epub 2014 Jul 20. PMID: 25177629; PMCID: PMC4149135. Link

-Hyson JM Jr. History of the toothbrush. J Hist Dent. 2003 Jul;51(2):73-80. PMID: 12846261. Link

-Shreekala Subhash Borker, Sandeep Anant Lawande, James Samuel. Recent advancements in toothbrush systems for improved mechanical plaque control. Int J Appl Dent Sci 2022;8(1):176-180. Link