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How The Modern Toothbrush Was Invented In A British Prison

By :Sarah A 0 comments
How The Modern Toothbrush Was Invented In A British Prison

The manual toothbrush is significantly older than one may expect, and whilst dental health is often seen as a somewhat recent discipline, there were always attempts to clean and maintain teeth even in the earliest civilisations, even if the medical knowledge took much longer to arrive.

From the first chewing sticks to toothpicks and finally bristle brushes, there have always been ways to clean teeth, and the term toothbrush was first used in 1690.

However, the first mass-produced toothbrush was made in somewhat unusual circumstances by a somewhat unlikely pioneer.

By 1770, William Addis had become a successful rag trader who made a relatively decent living collecting rags, turning them into pulp which then became high-quality paper sold as stationary to book publishers.

Unfortunately, the 46-year-old east-ender was caught up in a riot and was arrested for inciting it, ultimately spending time in prison.

During that time, he tried to keep his teeth clean with the traditional method of the era of rubbing a cloth filled with soot on his teeth but struggled to get in between his teeth. He realised there and then that if he could get in between his teeth he would be able to clean far more effectively.

What happened next is the subject of debate, but according to several historical texts about Mr Addis, he pocketed a small animal bone from his prison dinner before drilling a set of small holes into it, although it is unclear as to how.

After this, he persuaded a guard to give him some of the bristles from a broom, and with some work and effort, he had created a predecessor to the modern toothbrush.

Once he got out, he started a manufacturing firm to mass-produce toothbrushes, which eventually became Wisdom Toothbrushes.

After he died in 1808 it remained owned by the Addis family until 1996.

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