Once upon a time there were no toothbrushes (or teethbrushi). This was because people had no teeth (since they didn’t take care of them, their teeth all fell out). The general feeling in those days about breath was “blech.”
One day, Mrs. Neanderthal was admiring her last tooth (it was—at the time—considered to be a very attractive tooth) and hoping it would last as long as her dinner. Her hubby-type, Joe Neanderthal, had neglected to actually bring home dinner, so Mrs. N had a long while to wait. A long hungry while to wait. And while she waited, she chewed on a stick to try to get her tummy to stop rumbling. Her tooth lasted through several chew sticks and the toothbrush was born.
Mrs. N went on to expand her line of Sticks to Chew to include feathers, small bones, and porcupine quills. Mrs. N had quite a nice business going when Joe finally brought home a decent dinner and Mrs. N lost her final tooth chewing on some gristle.
Eventually, the Chinese and the Egyptians resurrected Mrs. N’s ideas and used chew sticks to clean their teeth. This was an Exceptionally Long Time Ago. At some point (still a long time ago) the Chinese invented the idea of using hog bristles attached to a bone handle to create toothbrushes.
Fast forward (to about 1780) and William Addis found himself in jail without access to a decent gift shop. At the time, people in England (that’s where he was) cleaned their teeth with a rag, soot, and salt. “Blech” thought William and he created a toothbrush. Once he got out of jail, he formed a company to mass produce toothbrushes. His company is still producing toothbrushes today, even though Will is long gone.
You would think with all these brushes around, teeth brushing would have been a big deal. You would have been wrong. It wasn’t until after WWII that the “time for night brushing of teeth” became common practice (extra points if you get the reference). Soldiers had learned (and by “learned” I mean were forced) to brush their teeth daily during the war and the practice caught on from there.
Nowadays, all kinds of disgusting things hang out on your toothbrush. If I were to tell you all about them your reaction (quite correctly) would be “blech” which seems to be something of a theme when it comes to oral hygiene. (If you really need to read about the ickies, the story is here on Mental Floss. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
- Brush your teeth.
- Clean your toothbrush.
- Avoid the “blech.”
- Live happily ever after.
Throughout the whole land.
The time for night-brushing of teeth is at hand.
Up at Herk-Heimer Falls, where the great river rushes
And crashes down crags in great gargling gushes,
The Herk-Heimer Sisters are using their brushes.
Those falls are just grand for tooth-brushing beneath
If you happen to be up that way with your teeth.
My favorite part from Dr. Seuss’ Sleep Book