Toothbrush surfing

July 1, 2011
My recent attempt to explain how my career is more than just clinical practice brought the response, "Seriously, a life revolving around toothbrushes must be ...

by Lory Laughter, RDH, BS
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My recent attempt to explain how my career is more than just clinical practice brought the response, "Seriously, a life revolving around toothbrushes must be the most boring career ever." My reaction was to defend product evaluation, and explain the excitement I feel being among the first to try new technologies; but it fell on deaf ears. My career discussion was already doomed by quick judgment based on stereotypes. So instead I listened to a taxidermist bubble over with enthusiasm describing a new process for saving skins.

Back in my own realm, let me just say that toothbrushes are anything but boring, and the Internet holds plenty of proof. One necessary stop for finding interesting and unique brushes is The collection was started by artist Maryly Snow of Oakland, Calif. What started out as a joke now has an entire website devoted to its glory. Snow's artistic talent does not revolve around the toothbrush – she is a talented artist using a variety of media such as canvas, photography, and printmaking.

While it is not a museum of dentistry, there are antique bone brushes in the collection. They can be viewed by entering the word "antique" in the search box. An interesting entry in this category is the prophylactic made by Florence Manufacturing Company. The brush was dug up during an archaeological dig of a levy made from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake rubble. The brush is stamped with "Guaranteed," though there is no reference to what it is guaranteed to do. The wording also claims, "A clean tooth never decays," something we now know is not entirely true.

Searching "disposable" will bring up information on Fuzzy Brush. The brush comes in a vending machine capsule and resembles a one arch typodont. Instructions are to chew on the brush and dispose of it safely. Claims include "ideal for holidays and travel, but not for small children." Bold type warns against swallowing it. On the plus side, the brush contains xylitol.

The children's brushes are especially fun to view. I was hoping to find a photo of the Snoopy Dog House electric brush that decorated my bathroom as a child, but I couldn't find it. I never used mine because I remember being afraid of the noise – it sounded too drill-like for this young dental phobic. There was, however, a listing for the Tote(r) travel brush that sat in the bottom of my Girl Scout backpack for years.

The web also provides interesting statistics for toothbrushes. For example, according to, your chance for visiting an emergency room for an accident involving a toothbrush is 1 in 99,340. This number makes toothbrushes slightly more dangerous than garage doors. According to the personal injury section of, lawsuits have been fought over toothbrushes left in hotel rooms and inadvertently used by the next guest, and even lotion and acne cream packaging that too closely resembles toothpaste tubes, causing careless and unsuspecting victims to brush their teeth with mucosa-damaging agents.

No Internet search is complete without finding something odd. In this case, I found it at The site contains a story called "Toothbrushes that you don't want to use for brushing." Scroll past the scary looking fishing brush and tell me the next one doesn't make you say, "Yuck!" For some reason, a brush made from human hair grosses me out more than the sample made from cigarettes.

Far from boring, the toothbrush is a source of hygiene, health, history, and even humor. Most have seen the cartoon depicting toilet paper and a toothbrush debating who has the worst job. Sites such as and have sections devoted to toothbrush humor – though most are not sharable in a public forum. While I am not suggesting this topic for dinner conversation, it does make for an interesting night of surfing.

Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, practices clinically in Napa, Calif. She is owner of Dental IQ, a business responsible for the Annual Napa Dental Experience. Lory combines her love for travel with speaking nationally on a variety of topics.

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