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The toothbrush is an oral hygiene instrument used to clean the teeth and gums that consists of a head of tightly clustered bristles mounted on a handle, which facilitates the cleansing of hard-to-reach areas of the mouth. Toothpaste, which often contains fluoride, is commonly used in conjunction with a toothbrush to increase the effectiveness of toothbrushing. Toothbrushes are available with different bristle textures, sizes and forms. Most dentists recommend using a toothbrush labelled "soft", since firmer bristled toothbrushes can damage tooth enamel and irritate the gums.[1] Toothbrushes have usually been made from synthetic fibers since they were developed, although animal bristles are still sometimes used.[citation needed]



A variety of oral hygiene measures have been used since before recorded history. This has been verified by various excavations done all over the world, in which chewsticks, tree twigs, bird feathers, animal bones and porcupine quills were recovered. The first toothbrush recorded in history was made in 3000 BC, a twig with a frayed end called a chewstick.

Many peoples have used some form of toothbrushes through the ages. Indian medicine (Ayurveda) has used the twigs of the neem or banyan tree to make toothbrushes and other oral-hygiene-related products for millennia. The end of a neem twig is chewed until it is soft and splayed, and it is then used to brush the teeth. In the Muslim world, chewing miswak, or siwak, the roots or twigs of the Arak tree (Salvadora persica), which have antiseptic properties, is common practice. The usage of miswak dates back at least to the time of the Prophet Muhammad, who pioneered its use. Rubbing baking soda or chalk against the teeth has also been common practice in history.

Japanese Zen master Dōgen Kigen recorded on Shōbōgenzō that he saw monks clean their teeth with a brush in China in 1223 with brushes made of horse-tail hairs attached to an ox-bone handle.

The earliest identified use of the word toothbrush in English was in the autobiography of Anthony Wood, who wrote in 1690 that he had bought a toothbrush off J. Barret.[2]

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