Brush Up on Your Dental History

27 March 2014

Dental health and hygiene affects everyone, from an infant to a centenarian. The same is true of tooth decay, which is the most prevalent human disease, second only to the common cold. As we look back at our ancestors and their struggle with maintaining their oral health to be able to survive, we must also look forward at new medical advancements that will help people around the world take better care of their teeth. Are you ready to brush up on your dental history?

Dental Timeline

Skull of a Homo heidelbergensis. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Skull of a Homo heidelbergensis. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

123,000 – 30,000 B.C. – Early Human Tooth Decay

Homo heidelbergensis, nicknamed the “Rhodesian Man”; a skull of one of our earliest ancestors was discovered in 1921 by a Swiss miner. This skull is one of the oldest known to have tooth cavities, which were found in ten of the upper teeth. Many scientists speculate that this early human may have died due to an infection caused by tooth decay.

5000 B.C. – Brush like an Egyptian

Egyptians are credited for creating the first rudimentary powder toothpaste made of salt, mint, and pepper 7000 years ago. Since they didn’t have brushes, they used their fingers to smear the powder onto their teeth to prevent decay.

Cat got your toothbrush?
Cat got your toothbrush?

500 B.C. – Cat Got Your Tongue?

The saying “cat got your tongue” originated 2500 years ago in Assyria where soldiers would cut out the tongues of criminals and feed them to the king’s cats. That’ll make you think twice the next time you hear that saying!

1498 A.D. – First Bristle Toothbrush Invented

Unlike their stick and twig predecessors, the bristle toothbrush was very effective in increasing overall oral health. The Chinese are thought to have made the first natural bristle toothbrush, made from the bristles on pigs’ necks, which were attached to a handle made of bone or bamboo.

Colgate advertisement circa 1915. (Source Wikimedia Commons)
Colgate advertisement circa 1915. (Source Wikimedia Commons)

1873 A.D. – Colgate Starts Mass Production of Toothpaste

Prior to this time period, toothpaste actually came in a powder, and not the gel or paste that we are used to. In 1873, Colgate created the first mass produced paste, which was bottled and eventually put into the plastic tubes that we have come to know and love as toothpaste.

1945 A.D. – Drinking Water Fluoridated

The idea for adding fluoride to the water came from a dentist in Colorado Springs in the early 1900s, who noticed that a large number of locals had brown staining on their teeth that came from drinking water with high fluoride content. Interestingly enough these locals were noted for having a significantly reduced incidence of tooth decay. After substantial testing proved that fluoridated water decreased tooth decay by as much as two thirds, it soon became a state wide, and then nationwide protocol.

1960 A.D. – First Electric Toothbrush

Though the first electric toothbrush, which was created for people who had limited motor skills or braces, was created in 1939, the first electric toothbrush in the US was the Broxodent in 1960.

See the difference with Invisalign. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
See the difference with Invisalign. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

1997 A.D. – Invisalign Braces

Invisalign, which are removable, moldable, and transparent braces, rocked the orthodontics industry and changed the perception of braces as being permanent and painful. Invisalign was the brainchild of two Stanford student turned entrepreneurs in 1997. By 2003, this product was already part of the curriculum of dental schools across North America and is now offered in more than 45 countries worldwide.

2012 A.D. – World’s First Smart Toothbrush

Welcome to 2012, where the Beam Technologies app-connected toothbrush enters the market. Not only does this toothbrush play music for the two-minute optimal window for brushing your teeth, it also rewards you for your good oral hygiene with free prizes. Using a free app, you can sync your toothbrush to your smart phone and track your daily brushing habits.


Looking back, it easy to see that dentistry and the whole notion of dental care and oral hygiene has come a long way. Today, we are living longer and fuller lives and that is in part thanks to the expert care that we give our teeth. Thanks for brushing up on your dental history, and if you have any questions, concerns or just want to make sure that your teeth are well taken care of, come visit us at Oakville Place Dental Office, where your smile is our number one priority!

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