Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 24, 2010

Toothbrush close up

February 24, 1938: DuPont corporation uses nylon yarn to create a nylon-bristle toothbrush, the first commercial product using nylon yarn. The toothbrush has come a long way from the initial “chew stick” used since 3500 BC. This stick was about the size of today’s pencil and was chosen with care. The wood was selected for its aromatic property so it would help to sweeten the breath. One end was chewed until it got mushy and resembled bristles. That end was used to cleanse the teeth. The opposite end was pointed and used as a toothpick.

China came up with the first instrument that looked somewhat like today’s toothbrush. It was a bone handle with wild boar bristles inserted into it to use a brush. This was brought back to Europe where the stiff bristles made Europeans’ gums bleed. They opted, therefore, to use horse hair instead.

William Addis created the first mass-produced toothbrush in 1780 in England. By 1850, H. N. Wadsworth patented a toothbrush in the US, but it was not mass produced until 1885. Dental floss was invented by Levi Spear Parmly of New Orleans in 1815. He recommended silk floss be used for cleaning. This was only available to dentists, however. In 1882 Codman and Shurtleft produced the first consumer use – unwaxed silk floss. The first patent for the product went to Johnson & Johnson in 1898.

Americans were not real big on oral hygiene, toothbrush or dental floss, and did not regularly brush their teeth until after World War II. The soldiers came back from the war where they were forced to brush their teeth daily. On their return, they kept up this practice.

The first electric toothbrush was from Switzerland and produced in 1939. The US finally got electric brushes in the 1960s. By 1987, rotary action was added. By the turn of the century, battery powered toothbrushes were available.

“Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond.” – Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

“For there was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently.” – William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

“If a patient cannot clean his teeth, no dentist can clean them for him.” – Martin H. Fischer

“Tooth decay was a perennial national problem that meant a mouthful of silver for patients, and for dentists a pocketful of gold.” – Claudia Wallis

Also on this day, in 1607 one of the earliest operas was performed.

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