The history of cleaning teeth
Around 5,000 BC there was no such thing as toothbrushes, mouthwash, dental floss or even toothpaste, so they had to make do with what they could get their hands on. Chewing on sticks was a popular way of cleaning teeth around this time. Our ancestors took an ordinary stick and frayed one end before rubbing over their teeth to remove food particles.
It would have also helped to shift plaque but of course they wouldn’t have known what that was. This method is still used today in several under developed countries and cultures.
Quite what was used as toothpaste back then is somewhat of a mystery as there is no evidence, but ancient drawings show ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians cleaning their teeth with something added to whatever they were using. This is widely believed to be salt based, as this is well documented as something used to clean teeth right up until the early 20th century. Bicarbonate of soda was another favourite as this also removed stains from teeth, as did urine (yes really) and acids which early dentists applied to teeth not realising they were actually damaging them.
When were toothbrushes invented?
Exciting times were afoot in the 16th century when the first bristle toothbrushes started to make an appearance. They made their debut in China and were originally made from wood or bone. Hog’s hairs were used for them and people quickly bought into this new invention when they realised how much cleaner and whiter their teeth were.
For the first time ever they actually had something which went in between the teeth as well rather than just cleaning the surfaces; result!
In 1938 DuPont invented what we call the first toothpaste with artificial bristles after campaigning about the use of hog’s hair. They employed clever marketing tactics by highlighting how hog’s hair could spread germs and cause possible infections in the mouth.
The problem was that the nylon DuPont used for their bristles was so hard it actually damaged teeth and no dentist recommended them. They got their act together a little over a decade later however and invented a soft vinyl for their bristles. This was not only more flexible but a lot more healthy for the teeth and gums, and the toothbrush as we know it today took off big style.
The first true electric toothbrush was invented in 1954 and literally was electric and came complete with plug. The Broxodent as it was called was the brainchild of Swiss inventor Dr Philippe-Guy Woog. Initially created for people who had limited motor skills and for orthodontic patients, such as those who wore braces, the Broxodent made its debut in the US in 1959 and became more streamline and mouth friendly over the ensuing years.
Modern models bear little resemblance to the Broxodent and have been honed over the years to be ever more effective at cleaning every surface of the tooth as well as removing plaque.
How we care for our teeth today
While today’s mouthwashes may come with fancy names and be packed with all manner of ingredients this isn’t a new invention either. Back in the day women would gargle with perfume mixed with water to give them a sweet breathe to attract suitors. The first commercially available mouthwash became available in the 1960’s and has evolved ever since using ingredients to kill bacteria, treat gum disease and, of course, whiten teeth.
When whitening toothpastes first appeared on the scene they were way more expensive than the ordinary stuff. Their fancy packaging promised million dollar smiles for a few quid and their magical ingredient was the old favourite – bicarbonate of soda. One of the cheapest ingredients you can buy but they added it to toothpaste and hiked up the price tag.
There are various other products on the market that promise to whiten your teeth, including powders for smokers, and while they have a better effect than a standard toothpaste the results are minimal and short lasting.
When it comes to healthy and whiter teeth, nothing comes close to what a recommended dentist can offer. White teeth go hand in hand with a healthy mouth, and only your dentist can ensure that you have both.