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'Indexo' finger toothbrush, New York, United States, 1901-1925

The ‘Indexo’ toothbrush is made entirely of rubber, which has been shaped to fit over the index finger. The bristles are used to brush the teeth. At a time of growing interest in personal dental hygiene, this object represents a novel departure from the standard toothbrush and was perhaps intended as the travel toothbrush of its day. Other toothbrushes of the same period were made from horse hair or wild boar hair. Nylon bristles were introduced in 1937. Daily cleaning of the teeth was not a regular habit until the early 1900s. In England and the United States, toothbrushes were provided to all servicemen during the First World War, which helped popularise their use.

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    Glossary: hygiene

    The science of health and how to maintain it. A condition or practice which promotes good health. The definition varies widely and differs across cultures.

    Glossary: toothbrush

    Small brushes, with long handles, for cleaning the teeth. 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 tree twigs, bird feathers, animal bones and porcupine quills that had been used to clean or brush ones teeth were recovered.

    Glossary: dentistry

    The study, treatment and management of diseases affecting the mouth, jaws, gums, teeth and their supporting tissues.