History of the toothbrush

J Hist Dent. 2003 Jul;51(2):73-80.


Civilized people have always used some type of instrument to clean and preserve their teeth. The first known instrument was a toothstick, referred to as a toothpick, woodmop, twigbrush, miswak, or siwak. Ancient Roman patricians employed special slaves to clean their teeth. The Chinese probably invented the bristle brush. French dentists, who were the most advanced in Europe, advocated the use of toothbrushes in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Still the toothbrush is a relative modern invention. Today, toothbrushes come in a variety of shapes and sizes with more choices than ever.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Dental Materials / history
  • Europe
  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Toothbrushing / history*
  • Toothbrushing / instrumentation
  • United States


  • Dental Materials