Ah, the humble toothbrush. We use them every day but have you ever thought about how they were invented? How they are made? And how far you should keep your toothbrush from the toilet?
From twigs and leaves to high tech synthetics, the toothbrush has come a long way since 3000 BC. Here are 30 fantastic toothbrush facts that will knock your kids socks off before they go back to school.
Fact 1: The first bristle toothbrush was invented in China during the Tang Dynasty (619-907). Travelers to China brought the bristle toothbrush to Europe during the seventeenth century.
Fact 2: Dentists recommend that a toothbrush be kept at least two metres away from a toilet to avoid airborne bacteria particles resulting from the flushing.
Fact 3: The first nylon bristle toothbrush, made with nylon yarn, went on sale on February 24, 1938.
Fact 4: In 3000 B.C. the ancient Egyptians made crude toothbrushes from twigs and leaves to clean their teeth. The Greeks, Romans, and Indians cleaned their teeth with twigs too. They even frayed one end of the twig so that it could penetrate between the teeth more effectively.
Fact 5: Until the early 1900s, toothbrush bristles were generally made of Siberian hog hair, but in 1938, the soft-bristled Miracle Tuft Toothbrush was invented. Within a decade, Oral-B was mass-producing soft-bristled toothbrushes.
Fact 6: The first mass-produced toothbrush was made by William Addis in England.
Fact 7: Many mass-produced toothbrushes, made with horse or boar bristle, were imported to England from China until the mid-20th century.
Fact 8: More than half of us would share our toothbrush with somebody: 24% with our partner, 18% with our child, 7% with a friend and 6% with a celebrity!
Fact 9: Jack Hokanson invented the environmentally-friendly toothbrush. The Hoke2 brush featured a non-disposable handle with a replaceable bristle head.
Fact 10: One in 10 people admit they regularly forget to brush their teeth.
Fact 11: Back in 2003, the toothbrush was selected as the number-one invention most Americans could not live without.
Fact 12: William Addis is believed to have produced the first mass-produced toothbrush in 1770 while serving a jail sentence for causing a riot. In prison, he decided that the teeth-cleaning methods of the time (rubbing a rag covered in soot and salt over teeth) needed improvement. He drilled small holes into an animal bone left over from a meal. Then he got some bristles from his guards, which he tied in tufts and passed through the holes in the bone, finally sealing them with glue. After his release, he started manufacturing toothbrushes and became very rich.
Fact 13: The first electric toothbrush, the Broxodent, was invented in Switzerland in 1954.
Fact 14: Pig bristle was used in the past for cheaper toothbrushes, and badger hair for the more expensive ones.
Fact 15: Toothbrushes have bristles grouped in clumps of around 40 tufts, which are folded over a metal staple, forced onto pre-cored holes in the head and fused together.
Fact 16: In the United States, brushing teeth didn’t become routine until after World War II. The US Army enforced toothbrushing among soldiers, and these soldiers brought the habit home with them.
Fact 17: It doesn’t matter whether you brush first or floss first, as long as you’ve done a thorough job.
Fact 18: To keep your toothbrush clean, it’s a good idea to rinse it with water after brushing and store the brush in an upright position so it can air dry. If you are storing more than one brush, we recommend keeping them separated to prevent cross contamination.
Fact 19: The world’s most expensive toothbrush costs US$4,000. It’s made of titanium – and it isn’t even electric.
Fact 20: Your toothbrush could save your life. Brushing your teeth can reduce your chances of contracting periodontal disease (as it reduces the bacterial build up in your mouth). Periodontal disease can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, arthritis, even pneumonia.
Fact 21: The average person spends a total of 38.5 days brushing their teeth during their lifetime – but it should be more like 122 days!
Fact 22: Sharing your toothbrush is not a good idea. Besides general hygienic concerns, there’s also a risk of transmitting diseases that are generally transmittable by blood, like Hepatitis C.
Fact 23: If your toothbrush has worn out bristles, it doesn’t clean quite as well. That’s why dentists recommend replacing toothbrushes when they appear to be worn out (roughly after 6–16 weeks)
Fact 24: The electric toothbrush was first sold in the United States in 1960.
Fact 25: Brushing your teeth three times a day for two minutes each time can burn more than 3,500 calories a year. So, you could lose a kilo per year just by brushing your teeth!
Fact 26: The average toothbrush contains around 2,500 bristles.
Fact 27: A study by the Academy of General Dentistry reported that the average person only brushes for 45-70 seconds a day. We recommend brushing for at least two minutes per session.
Fact 28: We recommend replacing your toothbrush after you’ve had the flu, a cold or any other viral infection – so germs on the toothbrush bristles don’t lead to re-infection.
Fact 29: Americans spend over US$850 million a year on toothbrushes.
Fact 30: Although putting a cap on your toothbrush sounds like a good idea, it actually traps moisture that can cause bacteria growth. Yuck!
If all this information leaves you wanting to brush up on your oral hygiene, here is how it should be done. And don’t forget a regular checkup and clean with your National Dental Care practitioner – you can book online now.
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