The Australian Dental Association (ADA) is shining the spotlight on the harm sugar and poor oral health habits do to your teeth this year.  

With around 48% of Australian adults consuming too much sugar according to the ADA Oral Health Tracker statistics, your toothbrush (along with your diet) is possibly your most important weapon in the fight against tooth decay. 

Here are ten little-known toothbrush facts to ponder on as you stand at the bathroom sink giving your pearly whites a good clean.

1. The humble toothbrush is 5,000 years old.

In various forms, that is. Ancient civilizations used a chew stick – a thin twig with a frayed end, to remove food from their teeth. Over time, toothbrushes evolved and were made from bone, wood or ivory handles and stiff bristles from hogs, boars or other animals. Today’s nylon-bristled toothbrush was invented in 1938.

2. The first mass-produced toothbrush was invented in prison.

In 1770, an Englishman named William Addis was jailed for inciting a riot. He saw fellow prisoners using a rag covered in soot or salt to clean their teeth. Addis saved an animal bone from dinner and received bristles from a guard. Accounts state he bored tiny holes into the bone, inserted the bristles and sealed them with glue. After his release, he modified his prototype, started a company and manufactured his toothbrush. That company, Wisdom Toothbrushes, still exists in the UK today.

3. Manual or powered? Your teeth don’t care.

In the manual and powered toothbrush debate, it’s a wash; just be sure to brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. (If your toothpaste has the ADA Seal, you’ll know it has fluoride.) Both types of toothbrush can effectively and thoroughly clean your teeth. People who find it difficult to use a manual toothbrush may find a powered one more comfortable. Talk to your dentist about which is best for you.

4. There’s no “correct” order for brushing and flossing.

Brushing before flossing, flossing before brushing—it doesn’t matter to your teeth. As long as you do both, your teeth will thank you.

5. Toothbrushes like to be left out in the open.

Cleaning your toothbrush is easy: rinse it with tap water to remove any remaining toothpaste and debris. Store it upright and allow it to air dry. If you store your toothbrush with other toothbrushes, make sure they’re separated to prevent cross contamination. And don’t cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers. A moist environment such as a closed container is more conducive to the growth of unwanted bacteria than the open air.

6. They have a 3 month lifespan

Make sure you replace your toothbrush around every three months, or sooner if the bristles are splayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth. If you replace your brush before the three-month mark, it could indicate you’re applying too much pressure when brushing. Studies show a new toothbrush is 95% more effective in removing culprit plaque than a 3-month-old one.

7. When it comes to choosing a brush, go soft.

No matter the type of brush you choose, choose a soft-bristled brush. Firm or even medium-strength bristles may cause damage to your gums and enamel. When brushing your teeth, don’t scrub vigorously—it’s not about how hard you brush, it is all in the technique. Your fluoride toothpaste will do the rest of the work and only ever used a pea-sized amount as the rest is a waste.

8. It only takes 2 minutes, twice a day.

Four minutes a day goes a long way to maintaining optimum oral health. Put the time in each day to keep your smile healthy and keep up this twice-a-day habit.

9. Sharing is caring, but not for toothbrushes.

Sharing a toothbrush can mean you’re also sharing germs and bacteria, not a good idea when there are over 800 kinds of bacteria in your mouth. This could be a particular concern if you have a cold or flu to spread, or you have a condition that leaves your immune system compromised.

10. Becoming sustainable is easy. 

Worldwide we throw away around five billion toothbrushes a year – now some toothbrush manufacturers are producing ones made of sustainable materials including biodegradable bamboo handles. Meanwhile recycling company TerraCycle has partnered with Colgate to recycle toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and caps, floss containers and their packaging. Go to to find out more.

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