AskDefine | Define toothbrush

Dictionary Definition



1 small brush; has long handle; used to clean teeth
2 slang terms for a mustache [syn: soup-strainer]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A brush, used with toothpaste, for cleaning the teeth.


brush for cleaning the teeth and tongue
  • Afrikaans: tandeborsel
  • Arabic: فرشاة أسنان
  • Catalan: raspallet de les dents
  • Chinese: 牙刷 (yáshuā)
  • Czech: zubní kartáček
  • Danish: tandbørste
  • Dutch: tandenborstel
  • Esperanto: dentbroso
  • Finnish: hammasharja
  • French: brosse à dents
  • Galician: cepillo de dentes
  • German: Zahnbürste
  • Greek: οδοντόβουρτσα
  • Hebrew:
  • Hungarian: fogkefe
  • Icelandic: tannbursti
  • Italian: spazzolino da denti
  • Japanese: 歯ブラシ (haburashi)
  • Latvian: zobubirste, zobu birste
  • Norwegian:
    Bokmål: tannbørste
    Nynorsk: tannkost
  • Persian: مسواک
  • Polish: szczoteczka do zębów
  • Portuguese: escova de dentes
  • Romanian: periuţă de dinţi
  • Russian: зубная щётка (zubnája ščótka)
  • Slovak: zubná kefka
  • Spanish: cepillo de dientes
  • Swedish: tandborste

Extensive Definition

The toothbrush is an instrument consisting of a small brush on a handle used to clean teeth through tooth brushing. Toothpaste, often containing fluoride, is commonly added to a toothbrush to aid in cleaning. Toothbrushes are offered with varying textures of bristles, and come in many different sizes and forms. Most dentists recommend using a toothbrush labelled "Soft", since firmer bristled toothbrushes can damage tooth enamel and irritate gums as indicated by the American Dental Association. Toothbrushes are often made from synthetic fibers, although natural toothbrushes are also known in many parts of the world. The first commercial toothbrush was invented by Goldstein and Hautman in 1875.


A variety of oral hygiene measures have been used since before recorded history. This has been verified by various excavations done all over the world, in which chewsticks, tree twigs, bird feathers, animal bones and porcupine quills were recovered. The first modern idea of a toothbrush is believed to have been invented in China in the late 1400's, which used the stiff hairs from a hog's neck, attached to a bamboo stick.
However, many other peoples used different forms of toothbrushes. Indian medicine (Ayurveda) has used the neem tree (a.k.a. daatun) and its products to create toothbrushes and similar products for millennia. A person chews one end of the neem twig until it somewhat resembles the bristles of a toothbrush, and then uses it to brush the teeth. In the Muslim world, the miswak, or siwak, made from a twig or root with antiseptic properties has been widely used since the Islamic Golden Age. Rubbing baking soda or chalk against the teeth was also common.
William Addis of England is credited with creating the first mass-produced toothbrush in 1780. In 1770 he had been placed in jail for causing a riot. While in prison, he decided that the method for teeth brushing of the time – rubbing a rag on one's teeth with soot and salt – could be improved. So he took a small animal bone, drilled small holes in it, obtained some bristles from a guard, tied them in tufts, then passed the bristles through the holes on the bone and glued them. He soon became very wealthy. He died in the year 1808 and left the business to his eldest son, William II.
The first patent for a toothbrush was by H. N. Wadsworth in 1857 (US Patent No. 18,653) in the United States, but mass production of the product in America only started in 1885. The rather advanced design had a bone handle with holes bored into it for the Siberian Boar hair bristles. Boar wasn't an ideal material; it retained bacteria, it didn't dry well, and the bristles would often fall out of the brush. It wasn't until World War II, however, that the concept of brushing teeth really caught on in the U.S., in part because it was part of American soldiers' regular daily duty to clean their teeth. It was a practice that they brought back to their home life after the conclusion of the war.
Natural bristles (from animal hair) were replaced by synthetic fibers, usually nylon, by DuPont in 1938. The first nylon bristle toothbrush, made with nylon yarn, went on sale on February 24, 1938. The first electric toothbrush, the Broxodent, was introduced by the Bristol-Myers Company (now Bristol-Myers Squibb) at the centennial of the American Dental Association in 1959.
In January 2003, the toothbrush was selected as the number one invention Americans could not live without, beating out the automobile, computer, cell phone, and microwave oven, according to the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index.

Electric toothbrushes

The first electric toothbrush was developed in 1939 in Scotland, but did not appear on the open market until the 1960s, when it was marketed as the Broxodent in the United States by Squibb. In 1961, General Electric introduced a rechargeable cordless toothbrush that moved up and down when activated.
In 1987, the first rotary action toothbrush for home use, the Interplak, appeared in shops for the general public. There are currently many different varieties of model that use this mechanism.
toothbrush in Arabic: فرشاة أسنان
toothbrush in Min Nan: Khí-bín
toothbrush in Czech: Zubní kartáček
toothbrush in Danish: Tandbørste
toothbrush in German: Zahnbürste
toothbrush in Spanish: Cepillo de dientes
toothbrush in Estonian: Hambahari
toothbrush in Esperanto: Dentobroso
toothbrush in Basque: Hortzeskubila
toothbrush in Persian: مسواک
toothbrush in French: Brosse à dents
toothbrush in Scottish Gaelic: Bruis-fhiaclan
toothbrush in Indonesian: Sikat gigi
toothbrush in Italian: Spazzolino da denti
toothbrush in Hebrew: מברשת שיניים
toothbrush in Lithuanian: Dantų šepetukas
toothbrush in Hungarian: Fogkefe
toothbrush in Dutch: Tandenborstel
toothbrush in Japanese: 歯ブラシ
toothbrush in Norwegian: Tannbørste
toothbrush in Norwegian Nynorsk: Tannkost
toothbrush in Polish: Szczoteczka do zębów
toothbrush in Portuguese: Escova de dentes
toothbrush in Romanian: Periuţă de dinţi
toothbrush in Russian: Зубная щётка
toothbrush in Simple English: Toothbrush
toothbrush in Slovak: Zubná kefka
toothbrush in Finnish: Hammasharja
toothbrush in Swedish: Tandborste
toothbrush in Tamil: பற்தூரிகை
toothbrush in Vietnamese: Bàn chải đánh răng
toothbrush in Turkish: Diş fırçalama
toothbrush in Chinese: 牙刷
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