Many of our patients are habitual tooth brushers who wouldn’t think of going to bed without brushing and flossing, but a larger percentage of people forget to brush sometimes, and worldwide many people don’t brush at all. Some wonder why humans need to brush when they didn’t for thousands of years and animals never do. There are three myths embedded in that line of thought, and we’ll explore them here.
The first myth is that we don’t have to or shouldn’t have to brush our teeth. As we’ve discussed before, the human mouth is full of bacteria, some of which is helpful to health and digestion and some of which will destroy your teeth if it’s not removed by regular brushing and flossing. That bacteria feeds on the sugars in the foods you eat, the ones that remain in your mouth if not removed and produce an acidic byproduct that eats away at your teeth.
The second myth is that people didn’t brush their teeth before the invention of the modern toothbrush in 1780. That one was made of bone and horsehair and created by a man named William Addis who happened to be languishing in Newgate, a London prison, at the time. He passed the time by drilling holes into a bone so that his mouth might taste a little better. It worked, and when he was released from prison he marketed his idea and build a multi-generational business out of it.
The truth is that we know that as far back as Babylonia (3500 B.C.), humans have been brushing their teeth with some form of brush. The earliest forms of this were twigs from certain beneficial trees. Many people in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa still use them. They’re known as chew sticks or miswaks throughout the Islamic world. From the very first twig to the plastic toothbrushes with nylon bristles we have today, people have been using toothbrushes to care for their teeth and oral health for a long, long time.
The good news is that we live longer than people have in the past. The “bad” news is we need to take care of our bodies to keep them in good condition so we can live our lives and remain pain free. This includes brushing and flossing your teeth. If someone tells you this is not true, you can set them straight with the above facts. Brushing is essential!