The toothbrush

William Addis (1734-1808) from London is the protagonist of a story about the invention of the toothbrush which seems to merge two different events. Addis was a rag trader for the paper-making industry and rags dipped in grit were also used in those days to clean teeth. However, the increasing inclusion of sugar in people’s diets had a disastrous effect on dental health.

At some point Addis found himself in jail for starting a riot, cause unknown. It is said that whilst there, he put together his toothbrush prototype with the assistance of a guard. The fact that this involved drilling small holes in a bone, inserting boar bristles and gluing the back infers that the guard must have been a friendly, co-operative and resourceful sort of chap. Alternatively, Addis’s jail-time may have merely provided the inspiration for his new product.

Nonetheless, this saw the introduction of the toothbrush as we know it today and Addis went on to establish a hugely successful manufacturing business in 1780 which remained in the family until 1996, having incorporated Wisdom Toothbrushes Ltd in 1993. Around 70 million toothbrushes are produced per year by Wisdom and Addis Housewares Ltd now focuses on other types of brush and household accessories.

(Top image: Karolina Grabowska at / Public domain)

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