Though primitive toothbrushes started out as toothpicks and chewing sticks, over the years the toothbrush has changed quite a bit. Take a look at the timeline below to learn how the toothbrush has changed over the years.

3500 B.C.

Babylonians used chewing sticks to clean their teeth. They were careful to select twigs from aromatic trees that  they believed would clean and freshen their mouth. They chewed on one end of the stick until it became soft like a brush, and kept the other end pointed to pick out food that got stuck between their teeth. These sticks were the size of a pencil.

15th-16th Century

The first “toothbrush” (with bristles) was invented in China and was made of animal bone, bamboo and hog hair. The bristles were very hard.


William Addis of England invented the first mass-produced toothbrush. While in prison, he drilled small holes in a cattle bone, tied swine fibers (from wild pigs) in bunches, passed them through the holes and then glued them.


The first three-row bristle brush was designed by Dr. Meyer Rhein.


H.N. Wadsworth was the first to patent the toothbrush. Like those before him, he used animal bone and swine hair.


Other American companies began to mass-produce the toothbrush.


The nylon toothbrush, the first to be made with synthetic bristles, appeared on the market. People preferred these bristles because they were softer and more hygienic than animal hair bristles.


The first electric toothbrush was invented in Switzerland.


Soliders in the United State Army returned from World War II and brought their habit of tooth brushing home with them. The concept spread thoughout the country and nylon toothbrushes became very popular.


The Broxodent was the first electric toothbrush to be sold in the United States by the company Squibb. A year later, General Electric was the first company to sell a rechargeable cordless toothbrush.


The company Interplax designed and sold the first rotary action electric toothbrush.


In an annual survey of adults and teens, the toothbrush was voted the number one invention people can't live without, beating out the computer, cell phone and automobile.


Technology has sure come a long way! The modern-day toothbrush is typically constructed out of a plastic handle and nylon bristles. The modern day toothbrush handle comes in many varieties, including handles that are straight, angled or curved. Toothbrush heads also come in a variety of shapes and sizes for people of all ages and sizes.

To learn about the correct way to brush your teeth visit the Brushing & Flossing section.