The toothbrush has existed in some form for nearly 5000 years. However, modern toothbrush design dates back to 1938, when the first nylon bristled brushes were sold. According to the Library of Congress, modern use of the toothbrush was heavily influenced by World War II soldiers and their highly disciplined hygienic routines. Following the war, this trend spread to the American public and was responsible for establishing modern brushing routines.
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According to the American Dental Association, the earliest toothbrush handles were constructed from a variety of materials, including bone, ivory and wood. The oldest toothbrushes found in archaeological digs date back to about 3000 B.C. They are nothing more than twigs with frayed ends which were chewed on. Modern toothbrush handles are typically made from durable plastic.
The Library of Congress states that the earliest form of the modern toothbrush which utilised bristles was invented in China in the year 1498. The bristles of most early toothbrushes were made from coarse animal hairs, such as hog hair or horse hair. Boar hair was the standard until 1938, when nylon bristles were introduced and became the new standard.
Toothbrushes are generally composed of two parts: the handle and the bristle. Electric toothbrushes have a third part, an internal motor which oscillates the bristle head. Research by the Cochrane Collaboration has found that oscillating toothbrushes removed up to 11 per cent more plaque than standard toothbrushes. These interior motors are made of various metal and plastic parts.
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