History of Toothpaste & Toothbrush – Most Commonly Used Dentifrices

history of toothpaste and toothbrush

Toothbrush and toothpaste are the most widely used dentifrices or dental aids in the world. These two form an essential part of our teeth and gum cleaning regimen. These two dentifrices were not as efficient back in the days, as they are today. To understand the proper usage and efficiency of these two dentifrices, we need to know about their history and development. Toothpaste and toothbrush have been in use since 3000 BC in the ancient civilizations. (1)

It is intriguing to see how toothbrush and toothpaste developed and got modified over thousands of years and yet, they are still in use.


So, let’s dive into the detailed history of toothpaste and toothbrush. For the ease of understanding, we can divide the timeline into the developmental days and recent advances.

Toothpaste and Toothbrush – what are they?

Toothpaste is a paste or gel that is used with a toothbrush which has a bristled handle. These two together maintain and improve oral health and aesthetics.

Since their introduction thousands of years ago, toothpaste formulations have evolved considerably. The same can be said about the changing designs and built of the toothbrush.

Toothpaste developed from suspensions of crushed eggshells or ashes to modern day complex formulations with often more than 20 ingredients.

Some of these compounds combat tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, calculus, erosion and tooth hypersensitivity.

Toothpaste and toothbrush development is by no means complete as human teeth structure keeps evolving with time. Let’s see how they developed to what we use today.

History of toothbrush

For the ease of understanding and formation of a timeline, we can divide the history of the toothbrush into its developmental days and recent advances as follows-

Egyptian and Babylonian origin

Toothbrush dates back to 3000 BC. Babylonian and the Egyptian civilization made brushes by fraying the end of twigs. And that is where it all began, from a mere twig. Tombs of the ancient Egyptian civilization show tooth sticks alongside their owners.

Chinese influence

Around the period of 1600BC, the Chinese developed chewing sticks which were made from aromatic tree twigs for the freshness of their breath.

The Chinese are supposedly the inventors of the first toothbrush with natural bristles. These bristles were made from pig hair in the 15th century. The bristles were then attached to a bone or bamboo handle.

European advancements

When the china made toothbrush was brought to Europe, this design was adapted to make a few changes in the design. Softer horsehairs replaced hog hair bristles. Other designs in Europe also used feathers.

When in England

The first toothbrush with a comparatively modern design was made by William Addis in England around 1780. The handle supposedly came from cattle bone, and the brush portion still came from pig bristles.

In 1844, the first toothbrush with 3-row bristle came into being.Click To Tweet

Nylon bristles – the breakthrough

Du Pont invented nylon in the 1930s. The invention of nylon led to the development of the modern day toothbrush in 1938. By the 1950s softer nylon bristles were made, as people preferred these.

The first electric toothbrush became commercially available in 1939. The first electric toothbrush was available in the US in 1960. It was named Broxodent.

Now – recent advances

Both manual and electric toothbrushes are in use today. They come in various shapes and sizes. Now brushes are made of plastic molded handles and nylon bristles.

The most recent toothbrush models include handles that are straight, angled, curved, and contoured for better accessibility to all the corners. Grips are incorporated, which are rubber areas to make them easier to hold and use.

Toothbrush bristles are synthetic and range from soft bristle brushes to hard bristle brushes. Toothbrush heads range from very small for children to larger sizes for adults.

They also come in different shapes such as rectangular, oblong, oval and almost round.

History of toothpaste

To form a clear timeline, we can divide the history of toothpaste into the days of its initial formulation and recent advances as follows –

Egyptian origin

Egyptians are believed to be the founding fathers of toothpaste. They were thought to use toothpaste for cleaning their teeth around 5000BC. So it is safe to say that toothpaste came into use before toothbrushes were invented.

Greek and Roman influence

Ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have used toothpaste around 500BC. People in China and India also used toothpaste around 500BC.

Ancient toothpaste supposedly treated some of the same concerns as we have today. These concerns were – keeping teeth and gums clean, whitening teeth and freshening breath.

The ingredients of old toothpaste were different and varied. Elements used comprised powder of ox hooves’ ashes and burnt eggshells. These were all was combined with pumice, a smoothening agent.

The Greeks and Romans preferred abrasive pastes, so they added crushed bones and oyster shells. The Romans added more flavor to help reduce bad breath. Powdered charcoal and bark were also some key ingredients.

The Chinese touch

The Chinese used a wide array of substances in their toothpaste. They included ginseng, herbal mints, and salts in their pastes.

In England

The development of toothpaste in modern times started in England in the 1800s. Early versions of the English toothpaste contained soap and chalk.

Betel nut and charcoal containing toothpaste were on the rise in the 1860s. These were said to be homemade toothpaste.

Before the 1850s, toothpaste was commonly in powder form. During the 1850s, new toothpaste in a jar called a Crème Dentifrice developed in England caught the public eye.

In the year 1873 Colgate started the mass production of toothpaste in jars. Crest introduced its toothpaste in a tube similar to modern-day toothpaste tubes in the 1890s.

Later, soap in the toothpaste was replaced by sodium lauryl sulfate. Today it is a common ingredient in present-day toothpaste.

In the year 1914, the first fluoride containing toothpaste came on the market. By the early 1900s, abrasive content in the toothpaste was also lowered down. (2)

Now – recent modifications to the formula

The latest advances in toothpaste include the development of whitening toothpaste, and toothpaste containing Triclosan. Triclosan provides extra protection against caries, gum disease, plaque, calculus and bad breath.

Toothpaste today contain fluoride, coloring, flavoring, sweetener, and ingredients that make the toothpaste smooth, foamy and moist. Toothpaste in tubes is available throughout the world and has become a very successful dental aid today. (3)


Over to you

Toothpaste and toothbrush form the basis of our oral hygiene. Knowing their history is fascinating as to how a hog bristle containing brush finally made it into our mouth with no hog hair in it today.

The influence of European and British scientific cultures was dominant in the development of these two dentifrices. The invention of nylon and transition of powdered toothpaste to tubes were the two breakthroughs.

Over its long history, the toothbrush and toothpaste have evolved to more scientifically designed dental tools. Now they use modern ergonomic designs and safe and hygienic materials that benefit us all.

Imagine using a horsetail brush or eggshell containing toothpaste today. Just joking!

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