Online Exhibit Showcases History of the Toothbrush

“Different Strokes for Different Folks: A History of the Toothbrush,” a new exhibit on the Dugoni School’s Virtual Dental Museum website, provides an in-depth look at the story of this deceptively simple tool, from the toothpicks of thousands of years ago to the introduction of electric toothbrushes in the 20th century.

While the concept of cleaning teeth and gums was not a hard sell (even in prehistoric times, humans used small sticks to do so), more recent technological developments initially met with some resistance. “For the average family the electric can opener is silly enough, but the electric toothbrush is stupidity on such a magnitude that it reflects a new, all-time low in the intelligence level of our American way of life,” wrote one Consumer Reports reader in 1962. However, electric toothbrushes ultimately prevailed, though they happily coexist with their manual brethren.

The exhibit, which can be viewed on the museum’s website at, joins several other online collections, including handpieces, dental chairs, Victorian-era business cards and other artifacts from dental history. More information about the collections is available on the school’s website. Students, alumni, researchers and dental professionals interested in studying the collections may contact Dr. Dorothy Dechant, curator and director of the Dugoni School’s Institute of Dental History and Craniofacial Study, at 415.929.6627 or