The Toothbrush

No doubt you take pride as I do in the possession of certain quality things such as crystal decanters, bronze sculpture, oil paintings, brass lamps, mantle clocks, sticks of mahogany furniture, Persian rugs, sterling silver flatware, bone china, jewellery and even more personal items like spectacles.  Have you, however, considered a toothbrush?

The toothbrush is an oral hygiene instrument used to clean the teeth and gums and tongue that consists of a head of tightly clustered bristles mounted on a handle, which facilitates the cleansing of hard-to-reach areas of the mouth.


The toothbrush like those other implements mentioned is designed for a purpose but in spite of its pedestrian utility and common template it embraces a surprising variety of models.


A variety of oral hygiene measures have been used since before recorded history prior to the toothbrush. This has been verified by various excavations done all over the world, in which chew sticks, tree twigs, bird feathers, animal bones and porcupine quills were recovered.

The predecessor of the toothbrush, the chew stick, first appeared in Egypt and Babylonia, and the earliest bristle toothbrush, the direct predecessor to the modern toothbrush, originated in China. Toothbrushes were introduced to Europe through merchants and travelers in East Asia by the 17th century. DuPont introduced the nylon toothbrush in the 1930s.


Nowadays the market is flushed with the electric toothbrush, sonic electric toothbrush, interdental brush, Sulcabrush, end-tuft brush, chewable toothbrush and ecological toothbrush. It remains to be seen whether technology succeeds to relegate the traditional toothbrush to the back burner the way safety blades retired the straight edged razor.  There will of course be those ardent conventionalists who stubbornly cling to the old model as a moderate expression of revolt.


In Europe, William Addis of England is believed to have produced the first mass-produced toothbrush, in 1780. In 1770, he had been jailed for causing a riot; while in prison he decided that the method used to clean teeth – at the time rubbing a rag with soot and salt on the teeth – was ineffective and could be improved. To that end, he saved a small animal bone left over from the meal he had eaten the previous night, into which he drilled small holes. He then obtained some bristles from one of his guards, which he tied in tufts that he then passed through the holes in the bone, and which he finally sealed with glue. After his release, he started a business that would manufacture the toothbrushes he had built, and he soon became very rich. He died in 1808, and left the business to his eldest son, also called William, and it stayed in family ownership until 1996. Under the name Wisdom Toothbrushes the company now manufactures 70 million toothbrushes per year in the UK. By 1840 toothbrushes were being mass-produced in England, France, Germany, and Japan. Pig bristle was used for cheaper toothbrushes, and badger hair for the more expensive ones.

My personal favourites are the “designer” toothbrushes some of which include bone handles.


If you’re intent upon making a statement with your toothbrush then consider the Reinast Luxury Toothbrush from Germany.  It’s made from “full body premium titanium…the material of choice for the most exclusive technological areas such as aviation, aerospace and a diverse range of surgical applications”.


If you’ve ever dreamt of brushing your teeth with a gold toothbrush, a titanium toothbrush is probably the next-best thing.

Retailing for $4,200, the Reinast Luxury Toothbrush is the most expensive toothbrush on earth.

And it’s not even electric.

So what makes it so special? The company claims that its design, durability, and specially trademarked anti-bacterial coating make it worth the hefty price tag.

This is not the type of toothbrush you would throw away either. Instead, the bristle head detaches from the metal base so you can ditch it and replace it.

The brush comes with a free three-year service plan of new bristle heads every six months (a service that is “naturally at no charge,” according to the website). After that, Forbes reports that the plans get a bit more expensive: $400 for five years, $800 for seven years, or $1,600 for 11 years.

And for those billionaires who don’t prefer the taste of metal in their mouths in the morning, Reinast also offers “bumpers” to cover the brush end of the tool for that familiar plasticky feel — because you should always have the option of feeling like you’re brushing with a $10 toothbrush with your $4,200 toothbrush. Dennis Green

The marketing hype for the Reinast Luxury Toothbrush practically promises new business, new friends and a new shot at love.

The disadvantage of those elegant instruments is that one way or the other their allure amortizes as quickly as the less expensive models. We’re so hopelessly addicted to perpetual renewal! Therefore the disposable products are preferable. My current bias is for a large-headed brush which I find to be more efficient and less annoying even though initially preposterous looking. Off-beat merchants such as health food stores usually provide unique varieties of toothbrushes.


To my surprise I discovered there are suggestions for alternate uses of toothbrushes. Apart from the ones mentioned below I had only heard about using a toothbrush and toothpaste to clean a diamond ring.

The humble toothbrush… we may reach for it a couple of times a day already but do you really know the extent of all its capabilities?  Truth be told, the abilities of the toothbrush far outweigh that of just achieving pearly whites, it also can be used to paint your nails, tame hair and beat ingrown hairs.

Almost without exception the toothbrush is at least affordable and at most a piddling luxury. Nonetheless many people persist in exercising some distorted sense of economy by preserving the use of a worn-out toothbrush long after its exhaustion.  Nothing makes a less agreeable discovery in someone else’s bathroom than a flattened head of bristles.  It is such a provocative comment upon one’s host. On the other hand the regular purchase of a new toothbrush affords unparalleled rejuvenation for next to nothing!

Even toothbrushes abound in trivia:

– (People) were not particularly concerned about dental health until they were influenced by the disciplined hygiene habits of soldiers in World War II. Afterwards, they became much more concerned about practicing good oral care.

– A study by the Academy of General Dentistry reported that the average person only brushes for 45-70 seconds a day. Dentists recommend brushing for two minutes per a session.

– Women brush their teeth more often than men.

– The first electric toothbrush was sold by the Squibb (Bristol-Myers Squibb) company, in 1956 in Europe and in 1959 in the United States.

– Prior to the 1850s, “toothpaste” was typically found in powder form. During the 1850s, a new toothpaste in a jar called a Crème Dentifrice was developed and in 1873 Colgate started mass producing toothpaste in jars.

– Colgate then began manufacturing toothpaste in a tube similar to our current day’s toothpaste tubes in the 1890s.

– Until 1945, toothpastes contained soap. Soap was replaced by other ingredients in order to make the paste smooth. Sodium lauryl sulphate was often used to replace the soap and is a common ingredient in present-day toothpaste.

– Fluoride was first added to toothpaste in 1956.

– Some dentists suggest that you replace your toothbrush after you have the flu, a cold or another viral infection. The concern is that germs on the toothbrush bristles could lead to re-infection. Michele Blacksberg RN

Finally one mustn’t overlook the Freudian philosophy which has insinuated even the world of toothbrushes in popular music.


Baby you don’t have to rush
You can leave a toothbrush
At my place
At my place
We don’t need to keep it hush
You can leave a toothbrush
At my place
At my place
‘Cause I just, I just can’t let you go
Give me something I never know
So baby you don’t have to rush
You can leave a toothbrush
At my place
At my place

Written by – Ilya, James Alan, Joseph Jonas, Rickard Goransson • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group