You will be hard-pressed to find a home without a toothbrush. Toothbrushes are the most commonly used dental hygiene tool, and a staple in most modern homes. Despite the fact that toothbrushes can be found in nearly every bathroom cabinet, these everyday tools are actually pretty misunderstood. Most toothbrush users have no idea where their toothbrushes come from, what they are made of, what happens to them once they are done being used, etc.
Toothbrushes may be commonplace, but their history, manufacturing, and omnipresence in stores, homes, and landfills make them anything but. At Wowe Lifestyle, our Natural Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrushes are one of our most popular products, and we have a particular love for all things toothbrush! If you have ever wondered whether your toothbrush is hiding secrets, this is the article for you. Keep reading to learn 10 interesting facts about the humble toothbrush.
1. The Original ‘Toothbrush’ Was a Stick
The first toothbrushes were mere “chew sticks,” thin frayed twigs used to rub plaque and food residue off and from between teeth. Twisting and rubbing these sticks against their teeth, this was a small advancement from the previous method of using plants, feathers, or anything else to rub and clean the teeth. Some chew sticks were made from fragrant wood, used to freshen the breath. Early evidence of chew sticks has been traced back to Babylon, Egypt, and China.
2. Toothbrush Bristles Were Invented in China
The first toothbrush with bristles appeared on the scene around the 15th century in China. Emulating the old chew sticks, bamboo sticks were equipped with pig/boar hair which had a scouring effect and instantly became more popular than the traditional chew sticks. By the 17th century, boar bristle toothbrushes were introduced to Europe. Finding the boar bristles a little too harsh, the Europeans began using horsehair instead, and some more wealthy individuals had custom badger hair toothbrushes made for themselves. Regardless, bristled toothbrushes were here to stay. Later bristled brush models would be made from bone, ivory, or other woods.
3. The First Mass Produced Toothbrush Prototype was Made in Prison
William Addis, an Englishman jailed for inciting a riot in 1770 would become the first mass producer of toothbrushes. Addis witnessed other prisoners using rags covered in soot or salt to clean their teeth, and instantly thought there must be a better solution. Addis secretly saved an animal bone after a meal, and made an arrangement with a guard to obtain some bristles. Addis tied the bristles into small bundles and secretly drilled holes into the bone. By stuffing the bundled bristles into the holes and gluing them in place, Addis created a toothbrush prototype that he used during the time remaining in his sentence. Upon release, Addis refined his prototype and became the first manufacturer and seller of commercial toothbrushes. Addis’ toothbrushes became incredibly popular, and sales reached sales numbers above 1.8 million annually by 1927.
4. The First 3-Row Bristle Toothbrush was Invented Around 1844
Prior to the 1840s, toothbrushes had been made with single rows of bristles. Seeing the advantage of being able to cover more surface area, toothbrush manufacturers began making alterations to the typical toothbrush design around 1844. 3 rows of bristles would eventually become the norm for most commercial toothbrushes, proving to be more effective than the single row being used before.
5. Nylon Toothbrushes Appeared in 1938
Long after the first appearance of bristled toothbrushes, nylon bristles hit the scene. More hygienic, more comfortable, and more effective than traditional boar bristles, the switch from natural to artificial bristles happened quite quickly. Though this new product was available to the general public, it was WWII soldiers that would eventually spread the popularity of toothbrushing.
Soldiers were supplied with few comforts of home but were required by the military to carry and use their toothbrushes regularly. Though toothbrushing was relatively common, it would take the return of WWII soldiers to US soil to spread its popularity widely throughout the United States. With the concept of toothbrushing becoming the norm, sales of nylon toothbrushes skyrocketed in the 1940s.
6. The First Electric Toothbrush Wasn’t Electric
1880 welcomed the first ‘electric’ toothbrush, manufactured and sold by an English doctor by the name of Dr. Scott. Dr. Scott’s Electric Toothbrush was advertised as the world’s first electric toothbrush, but in reality, required and used no electricity. Dr. Scott’s toothbrush had a magnetized iron-rod handle but was otherwise unremarkable and undifferent from regular manual toothbrushes. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Scott’s Electric Toothbrush did not catch on.
Decades later in 1954, the Swiss doctor Dr. Phillippe G. Woog invented a truly electric toothbrush known as the Broxodent. The Broxodent connected directly to an outlet and ran on live voltage. Intended to be used by patients with limited mobility, the Broxodent sold relatively well but did not explode in popularity. In 1961, inspired by the Broxodent, General Electric released a cordless and rechargeable electric toothbrush to the mass market. This more convenient version of the electric toothbrush caught on quickly, and new and improved models would begin to storm the market quickly after.
7. Covering Your Toothbrush Can Increase Bacteria
Now, using a toothbrush twice daily is commonplace, but not everyone agrees on how you should be storing your toothbrush. The best way to store your toothbrush is in the open air, and here’s why. After brushing your teeth, your toothbrush bristles will be coated in bacteria and plaque, which needs to be washed off. No matter how well you rinse your toothbrush, some bacteria will still remain.
Covering a toothbrush after cleaning can create a moist environment around your brush bristles, causing bacteria to grow more quickly than an uncovered toothbrush. Open-air allows for more rapid drying and less bacterial growth and can help keep your toothbrush clean and usable for longer. Store your toothbrush away from other toothbrushes to avoid cross-contamination, and allow ample airflow for quick drying and more sanitary storage.
8. 1 Billion Toothbrushes Are Thrown Away Every Year in the US Alone
Toothbrushes remain a wildly popular dental tool to this day, with billions manufactured, sold, and used around the world every year. In the US alone, over 1 billion toothbrushes are used and thrown away every year. Toothbrushes typically have a lifespan of around 3 months, and dentists recommend replacing them often in order to get the best possible clean and to avoid bacterial redistribution.
Though toothbrushing is important for your health, toothbrushes aren’t particularly environmentally friendly. Plastic toothbrushes are non-recyclable items, despite the fact that they are made from recyclable materials. Plastic may be recyclable, but nylon isn’t, making toothbrushes non-recyclable. Since plastic toothbrushes cannot be reused, all plastic toothbrushes find their way to landfills where they can sit for thousands of years before beginning the process of breaking down.
9. Environmentally Friendly Alternatives to Plastic Toothbrushes Are Better for the Planet and Your Health
Plastics are not only harmful to the planet but can cause harm to your health. Plastics like those used in toothbrush manufacturing may contain harmful and toxic chemicals like BPA. BPA is an estrogen, making it potentially harmful to human health. BPA can act as a hormone disruptor and has been linked to certain cancers, infertility, metabolic conditions, and other life-altering conditions.
Plastics containing BPA often release low levels of the toxin, but with continued use, these levels can easily rise. Exposure to heat and regular scratching, friction, or surface disruption can also increase the rate of BPA release in some plastic products. BPA is particularly harmful to the immunocompromised, the elderly, and small children.
10. Toothbrush Trends are Returning to Bamboo
Though toothbrushes spent centuries evolving from natural to artificial materials, recent toothbrush trends are returning the humble toothbrush to its roots, literally. Natural and environmentally friendly alternatives to plastics have become increasingly popular as people become more educated on the topic of health, plastic, and the environment. With nature conservation efforts on the rise, public demand for eco-friendly materials and alternatives are similarly becoming more popular.
Wowe Lifestyle is right on trend and focused on creating and selling environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional lifestyle products. Wowe’s Eco-Friendly and Natural Bamboo Toothbrushes are fully recyclable, biodegradable, and reusable, and even come in plastic-free eco-friendly packaging. Designed to last as long and be as effective as traditional plastic toothbrushes, the only thing you’ll be giving up when you choose a Wowe toothbrush is the plastic. Made from biodegradable materials that won’t hurt the planet, this is the biggest innovation in toothbrushes since the Broxodent!Are you interested in discovering more eco-friendly alternatives to your favorite products? Visit Wowe Lifestyle to see more products, and to learn more about how your lifestyle impacts the planet.