10 Shocking Facts about Toothbrushes

The humble toothbrush: we all own one and use it on a daily basis, but how many of you actually think about the history, importance, or impact of this tool? From safety tips to ancient versions and mass production, there are a lot of interesting facts concerning this everyday implement.

10. Makeshift Brushes

Ancient Egyptians were just as devoted to their dental health as we are. They used toothbrushes made from twigs and brushed with powder made from crushed shells and other substances of plant and animal origin.

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To freshen their breaths, they would often use twigs from fragrant plants or add herbs and other strongly scented substances.

9. First Bristles

The very first bristle toothbrush is believed to have been invented in China around 500 years ago. The bristles were taken from the back of a boar’s neck, and these thick and coarse hairs were attached to handles made of wood, bamboo or bone.

8. Modern Brushes

Humans used boar bristle brushes until 1938, at which point nylon brushes become the norm. The very first nylon brush was branded as Doctor West’s Miracle Toothbrush and within a decade it was commonplace, with the world becoming obsessed with dental care following the end of World War 2.

7. First Electric Toothbrushes

The US-based Electro Massage Tooth Brush Company made the very first electric toothbrush in 1927 but the first to receive any semblance of commercial success was the Broxo Electric Toothbrush, launched in 1960. Thirty years later, the first ultrasonic brushes were patented.

6. Electric vs Manual Brushes

Electric toothbrushes are more popular than ever, and this popularity is increasing every year. However, the manual is still the toothbrush of choice for most Americans.

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In 2019, close to 266 million Americans said they used manual brushes while 123 million admitted to using electric brushes. Obviously, there is some cross-over here, and this is key. Many electric toothbrush owners choose to buy manual brushes when they are on vacation, only to discard them when they return.

What’s more, many consumers make the switch from one to the other, only to discover they preferred things how they were and then switch back. Convenience and cost are the biggest reasons consumers stick with the manual while ease-of-use convinces people to stick with electric options.

5. Nasty Bacteria

Most consumers keep their toothbrush in their bathroom, often just a foot or two from their toilet. Every time they flush the toilet with the seat up, “bacteria particles” can become airborne and attach to the bristles.

We probably don’t need to go into detail about what those “particles” contain, but needless to say, if you keep your brush in your bathroom it can become a haven for bacteria.

Using a plastic cap will keep the bacteria away but it will also allow the particles already there to grow. Your mouth is riddled with bacteria and every time you brush, it finds its way onto the bristles. By attaching a plastic cap, you’re trapping that bacteria in a warm and humid environment and creating the perfect conditions for it to multiply.

Keep it away from the toilet, don’t use caps, and flush with the seat down!

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4. Sharing is Caring!

Experts recommend keeping your toothbrush away from others and never letting anyone borrow it. However, studies suggest that a quarter of us would happily share a brush with a partner and a little less would share with a child. Between 5% and 10% said they would even share with a friend or celebrity!

3. 40 Days

The average person spends a little less than 40 days brushing their teeth during their lifetime. That’s a lot of brushing but it’s actually less than dentists recommend. If you follow their advice of brushing for 2 minutes twice a day, you’ll spend 122 days brushing your teeth throughout your life.

2. It Burns Calories

If you’re struggling to get motivated to brush, consider this: brushing your teeth burns between 3,000 and 4,000 calories a year. That may not sound like much, but if everything else remains the same you could lose up to a pound extra throughout the year.

1. Cost Variations

The cheapest toothbrushes cost just a dollar or two and are made from cheap materials like bamboo or plastic. The most expensive commercial models cost several hundred dollars, including the Philips Sonicare DiamondClear Smart, which has a price tag of $750.

You can also splash the cash on a titanium manual toothbrush from Reinast, providing you have $4,200 to spare. However, we can’t help but think this was one of those one-off PR products, because a simple Google search will trigger an endless windfall of “most expensive” lists and other PR pieces and no actual retail options. 

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In any case, these brushes won’t necessarily clean your teeth better than a cheap manual or electric brush. The same goes for high-priced whitening toothpaste. Just because it is modeled by celebs with gleaming white smiles, doesn’t mean you’ll get the same results after a few brushes.

If you want the cleanest and healthiest teeth, get a brush you can afford, use it twice a day, floss regularly, and use a safe at-home whitening kit like those provided at Try Snow.