For hundreds of thousands of years, humans did not brush their teeth. Why do we brush them now?

Bensonhurst Dental
Oct 29, 2015 · 4 min read

This question originally appeared on Quora. We decided to expound on the subject since it’s a fantastic question and deserves attention.

For most people, the first thing they do right after they get up in the morning is they brush their teeth. For most of us, brushing our teeth is a mere habit which we simply take for granted, but have you ever wondered how man came to develop the habit of toothbrushing?

The development of the first toothbrush probably dates back to around 3000BC, when the Babylonians and Egyptians fabricated the first toothbrush by using frayed twigs. According to another source, around 1600 BC, the Chinese prepared “chew sticks” that were made from the twigs of aromatic trees for freshening their breaths.

What about the time when there weren’t toothbrushes or toothpaste?

History tells us that the ancient people did not have any cavities or dental problems, despite the fact that they never brushed their teeth! What was so special about them that they didn’t need to brush their teeth? There are several explanations for their immunity against oral health problems:


Back in the day, there were no processed food items, fast-food or take-out. The diet in those times consisted of all natural and unprocessed foods, such as wheat, rice, vegetables and fruits. These natural and pure foods were quite safe since they did not contain any preservatives or chemicals, and they contained nutrients and vitamins that made the teeth stronger and more resistant against cavities and other dental infections.

Fibrous Food

In ancient times, a large part of the daily diet consisted of fibrous foods, which were not only good for digestion but also kept the teeth clean and healthy by flushing away food and bacterial debris from the surface of the teeth. As a result, dental plaque would not develop. The fibers in the food acted as a toothbrush to keep the teeth squeaky clean and shiny white.

Nutrient Rich Diet

A major reason for the occurrence of dental infections these days is a mineral and vitamin deficient diet. This results in weak teeth that are ill-equipped when it comes to resisting tooth decay. This was not a problem in the previous days, as the diet used to be pure, wholesome and balanced.

What Changed Today?

If we forget to brush our teeth just for a single day, our teeth become visibly yellow, and a thick layer of dental plaque is visible on our teeth. This is because our eating habits have drastically changed. These days, many people tend to eat processed foods that are not only harmful to our health but are also quite detrimental to our teeth. Some examples:

Sweets & Baked Goods

Bakery items, chocolates, and candies contain refined and simple sugars that can cause cavities very quickly unless you brush your teeth after every time you satisfy your craving for sweets. We have so many delicious baked items available these days, that they’re nearly impossible to avoid. Macarons, Muffins, Cronuts, Bagels, Mini-Cupcakes — who can resist? But now more than ever we are exposed to sugary foods that can cause detriment to our teeth.


We love our sweets, fast-food, pizza, etc., but at the same time, we don’t exercise as much as our ancestors did hunting and gathering for food. As a result, unless sticking to a vigorous exercise routine, we don’t tend to burn the calories we consume. Over time, following this routine can lead to indigestion and potentially gastric disease, which if left untreated, can cause acid from the gut to rise up to the oral cavity, and cause tooth demineralization, and ultimately cavities.


In addition to staining our teeth, smoking has also been linked to the development of oral cancer. Smoking is so common these days, but most people tend to neglect the facts about the harmful effects of cigarette fumes on the teeth and overall health.


Carbonated drinks are highly acidic, and can lead to the demineralization and weakening of the teeth. In addition, these drinks contain excessive amounts of sugars that enhance the development of cavities in the teeth.

How You Can Protect Your Teeth From Infections and Cavities

Brushing and Flossing — when you brush your teeth, you remove the layer of dental plaque that adheres to your teeth and accumulates from eating all day. Brushing away the plaque protects your teeth from harmful bacteria inside the plaque. Similarly, flossing between your teeth will ensure that each and every corner is stripped of harmful plaque.

Eat a Balanced Diet — a diet that is rich in tooth-friendly nutrients, minerals and vitamins will make your teeth stronger and protect them from cavities. It’s also a good idea to lessen the intake of sugary foods and sodas. Remember to rinse your mouth after eating or drinking anything sweet or acidic.

Visit Your Dentist Regularly — visiting the dentist regularly will ensure that any developing problems are diagnosed and treated at their earliest. This will lessen the likelihood of a small problem causing permanent damage to the teeth or the oral cavity.

Remember, your dental health has a direct influence on your physical wellbeing. If you want to remain healthy, look after your teeth!

Forever Young

Health & Wellness Tips

Bensonhurst Dental

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Top Cosmetic Dentist in New York City. Specializing in Dental Implants, Teeth Whitening and much more!

Forever Young

Health & Wellness Tips

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