Probably the one similarity between us and the Sumerians of Mesopotamia is our shared dislike of the trips to the dentist. This would explain the discovery of chew sticks, the predecessor of the modern-day toothbrush, in excavation sites dating back to 3500 BCE. While the chew sticks are still popular in certain parts around the world, it’s the toothbrush that’s become the tool of choice for maintaining oral hygiene. The earliest known users of bristle-bearing toothbrushes were the Chinese, who used the flexible yet resilient Siberian hog hair for bristles back in the 15th century. These were attached to a handle fashioned from bamboo or bones. It took a couple of centuries for the Chinese toothbrush to make its way to Europe. (In case you are wondering, up until then Europeans rubbed their teeth with a piece of cloth or sponge dipped in a solution made of sulphur oil and salt.)
English entrepreneur William Addis was the first person to mass-produce toothbrushes in 1780, while the first patent for one was granted to American H.N. Wadsworth in 1857. The first evolutionary change in the toothbrush’s design came about thanks to the First World War. Since soup bones couldn’t be spared, manufacturers created handles with celluloid. They’d then drill holes in the handles to attach the bristles. The Addis version of the toothbrush used cow tail hair. Later versions of the European toothbrushes, like the one used by Napoleon, replaced the hog hair with softer horse hair. Despite their popularity, animal bristles were never an ideal material for a variety of reasons, mainly due to their animal source. In 1938, DuPont solved this problem when it introduced a toothbrush with synthetic fibres made from nylon. Brushing teeth became a daily ritual due to DuPont’s marketing campaign during the Second World War, which reminded American citizens that it was their duty to stay healthy by brushing their teeth. In 1961, an alternative to the manual toothbrush came in the form of an electric one from Switzerland, and by the late 1970s the toothbrush industry started churning out a variety of new designs that differed in bristle shape and size.
These days, you can do a lot more with toothbrushes than just scrub your teeth. Their use as a fine cleaning device is fairly popular, and it doesn’t take long for an enterprising maker to whisk one for a creative purpose.
#1 DIY Electric Toothbrush
Project maker: Roman Ursu
Project link: Watch the YouTube tutorial
Makers like Roman Ursu don’t let go of a do-it-yourself opportunity just because something is available off-the-shelf. So, while electric toothbrushes aren’t really expensive, he’d still put in the effort to electrify a manual one. The build isn’t component intensive, and the process isn’t complicated either. Before you begin, make sure none of the tiny particles from the ensuing process get into the bristles, by wrapping that end with some kitchen foil. Then, cut the handle in two places to place a tiny vibrating motor in the upper part, and a battery at the lower end. After chopping the handle, you’ll have to drill holes in them to place the motor and the battery. You’ll also have to make a hole through the central column of the handle to pass the wires, and another at the top to place a switch to toggle the motor. Follow Roman’s instructions in the video to connect the battery to the motor via the switch. Once they’re all hooked up, hot-glue the handle back together and you’re good to go. The hot glue also makes it possible to easily replace the battery when it runs out.