A Lifetime of Brushing: Does it Really Matter?


Primitive Dentistry

We know that our ancient ancestors had unkempt hair, but what about their teeth? Buckle up and take a trip down memory lane with us.

It starts with the Egyptians, who had very rudimentary dental care. Their solution for a diseased tooth was simply to remove it. Interestingly, ancient Egyptians didn’t have as many problems with cavities because they weren’t eating the high-sugar diets we do today. They were more susceptible to their teeth being worn down from eating food that wasn’t finely ground.

Around 5000 BC, a document explained that tooth pain was caused by a tooth worm digging a hole in the tooth. While not entirely correct, they were on to something as cavities do cause visible holes in teeth.

Remains from the Harappan period show evidence that teeth may have been treated with a bow drill as early as 7000 BC.

When the Etruscan period rolled around, people started experimenting with affixing gold to their teeth.

The Greeks contribution is the term dentistry, it is derivative of the word odontology, which means the study of the structure, development and abnormalities of the teeth.

Things get interesting when the Mayans come on the scene. Mayans are known for having a bit of . . . ahem . . . gaudy taste. And they began adorning teeth with stones and gem. They were often attached with plant sap.

At this point in history, people began treating their teeth but the activities weren’t performed by a dentist, rather a barber or doctor. Historical documents also show that people began cleaning their teeth with twigs in the Middle Ages. They chose sweet smelling twigs to give their mouths a fresh scent.

Enter…The Toothbrush

The invention of the humble toothbrush revolutionized dental care.

The first toothbrush was made by the Chinese in 1498. They attached spiky pig bristle to a bamboo or bone handle. They Chinese favored harvesting hog hair from Siberian pigs because the colder temps provided firmer bristles. Later on, people began to use horse hair because it was softer.

A prison inmate named William Addis contributed to the invention of modern toothbrush, when he took a bone from his jail cell floor, made holes in it and then threaded bristles through it. Around 1780, after he got out of jail he started mass producing the toothbrush and became a successful businessman.

While many contributed to the creation of what we know call the toothbrush, the first American to officially patent the invention was H. N. Wadsworth in 1857.

According to the Library of Congress, nylon bristles were first introduced in 1938. Since then there has been many improvements to toothbrush design including electric toothbrushes and comfort grip handles. In fact, according to Dental Tribune, there are currently more than 3,000 toothbrush patents.

World War II soldiers played a big role in popularizing the everyday practice of brushing teeth. In the military they were required to brush daily and continued the habit when they returned home.

How Toothbrushing Has Changed The World

The invention and practice of toothbrushing has changed the world in many ways. As people started brushing their teeth, they were able to keep them longer as they prevented cavities. Before the advent of cavity fillings and crowns, when someone got a cavity, they had no way to fix it and simply had to remove the tooth when it became completely decayed.

The toothbrush has contributed to the amount of plastic humans consume. EcoPlanet Bamboo estimates that in the US alone we go through between 850 million and a billion toothbrushes each year. These toothbrushes end up in landfills. Which is why the electric toothbrush is so great, it saves a lot of plastic from ending up in a landfill.

Benefits of Brushing Teeth

There are SO many reasons to brush your teeth. First of all, it will save you from painful cavities, bad breath, gum disease and yellow teeth. It will also save you money because dental work is not free! Regularly brushing your teeth can also help you from getting sick as it fights bacteria in your mouth.

Regular brushing will also keep your smile beautiful and bright. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry found in a 2015 survey that the majority of participants said an investment in their smile is more important than weight loss or hair enhancements. A Match.com survey found that almost 60 percent of men notice good teeth in a potential mate and 71 percent of women who ranked ‘teeth’ as important in a potential partner.

There are also a handful of less well-known benefits to brushing your teeth. Here are few statistics to chew on:

  • Those who brush twice a day are less likely to develop heart disease according to a British study.
  • A large study of a retirement study found a link between poor dental health and dementia. Researchers studied 5,468 people for 18 years and found that those who did not regularly brush their teeth had between 22 to 65 percent greater risk of dementia than those who did brush regularly.
  • A Brazilian hospital found that of the 315 patients who periodontitis were almost three times more likely to contract pneumonia.
  • Pregnant woman are more likely to develop gingivitis, which can cause their infants to be more likely to develop cavities.

Different Ways To Get The Job Done

Keeping your teeth healthy is pretty straightforward: brush twice a day, floss daily and get to the dentist every six months. It’s the execution that is more tricky.

Start by purchasing the right toothbrush and toothpaste for your teeth. You might be thinking “Wait there is a right and wrong toothbrush?” While any toothbrush and toothpaste will work, there are a few specifications you can explore that will give you the best results.

For instance, there are different types of toothpaste for sensitive teeth, whitening, tartar build-up, etc.

And while you thought Consumer Reports was just for cars and appliances, they can actually help you pick out a toothbrush! Check out their guide here.

Once you have the right tools, it’s all about making the habit stick. For some people setting a reminder in their phone is helpful. For others, buying a fancy electric toothbrush gets them excited about brushing their teeth. Plus, electric toothbrushes are very effective. According to Registered Dental Hygienist magazine, electric toothbrushes remove 10 to 49 percent more plaque than regular toothbrushes.

Have we convinced you? If nothing else will motivate you to brush, this just might: Brushing your teeth has an excellent return on investment. If you brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes, after a year you will have only spent 24 hours brushing your teeth. That might seem like a lot at first, but if you never brush your teeth, you’ll spend at least that much time taking care of your teeth the more expensive and painful way — in the dentist’s chair.

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