Although both bathroom essentials are inseparable and cannot generally function without the other, the toothbrush and toothpaste history is actually a story that spans several hundred years apart from the other.
But have you ever thought that the toothpaste came first before the toothbrush?
Regardless which one came first, the existence of both household items truly manifest mankind’s consciousness of dental hygiene and oral care dating as far as several thousand years back.
Incredibly, as early as 5000 BC, the Egyptians have already discovered a process of regularly cleaning their teeth using an abrasive powder made up of mixed ashes of burnt eggshells, ox hooves, pumice and myrrh.
There have been evidence that this powdered ash mixture is used to clean the teeth, by rubbing it on the enamel surface with the finger, prior to the discovery of the toothstick that served as the forerunner of the toothbrush.
A few hundred years later, the Greek and the Romans reformulated the cleaning powder by adding abrasives like crushed animal bones or oyster shells, which they found to be better effective ingredients in removing debris that may get lodged in between the teeth, further experimentation led to the adding of powdered charcoal and tree bark, as well as more flavouring agents to improve the taste and even prevent bad breath.
These powdered cleansers continued to be properly used until around 1000 AD when the Persians found out about the risks of using hard abrasives to clean the teeth and among the early replacement substances were the milder burnt snail shells, gypsum or hartshorn.
Other recipes include aromatic herbs, honey, mineral oils and even dried animal parts, mixed together with verdigris, honey, incense and powdered flintstone, purposely to help strengthen teeth.
Then a huge breakthrough took place back in the 18th century with the introduction of a product called dentifrice, developed by dentists, chemists and doctors in Britain.
Dentifrice is a toothpowder with mild abrasive properties made up of crushed china, brick dust, earthenware and dried cuttlefish.
Later, it evolved to the use of the sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda as an alternative tooth cleaner and whitener as well, back then, the tooth-cleaning powder was more of a necessity to use, rather than an appealing one.
It was only until 1873 when the first toothpaste was mass-produced and came in a jar and smelled good and a couple of decades later, Dr. Washington Sheffield of Connecticut invented the first toothpaste that came in a collapsible tube, which later became Colgate.
Although the Americans became the leader in the manufacture and marketed the toothpaste, it was only after World War 2 when the toothpaste became a daily way of life.
But where does the toothbrush come into the picture? Well, it all started around 3500 BC in Babylonia, were toothpicks were first used to clean the teeth, later evolving to the chewstick, where mastication of the stick promoted cleaning.
In China, around 1600 BC, the twigs of aromatic trees were used as a cleaning tool, where one end is chewed until it becomes brush-like and the other end is pointed to pick debris lodged in between the teeth.
It later evolved into small brushes with animal hair as bristles, and later discoveries gave way to the use of nylon as sturdy yet enamel-friendly bristles that will prevent damaging tooth enamel.
So goes the colorful and intriguing toothbrush and toothpaste history, making us more aware of the story behind one of our regular hygiene habits and routines.