Different Strokes for Different Folks: A History of the Toothbrush

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A.W. Ward’s Wondr-Dent gum massager

During the 1960s, as manual and electric toothbrush designs proliferated and top manufacturers escalated their competitive advertising, some smaller companies were rethinking proper oral hygiene. In 1962, Westward Dental Products of San Francisco produced the Wondr-Dent Gum Massager aimed at promoting healthy gums and clean teeth through massage. Patented by periodontist Dr. A.W. Ward, the thin flexible rubber finger cot would function to “dislodge food parts and also to contact gingiva between the teeth so that it may be stimulated to bring a fresh blood supply to the area.” He asserted that the pointed protuberances, reinforced at their bases by a circular spring, would be rigid but flexible and maintain a “liveness” essential for maintaining healthy gums and teeth.

According to Ward, the advantage of his Wondr-Dent Gum Massager was the uniform distribution of the rubber protuberances over the cot’s surface such that any finger, or a thumb, could be used and all oral surfaces could be reached without switching from one hand to the other. It surpassed earlier similar designs in forcing the points between the teeth at the necks. “This is especially important because although this has been long recognized as desirable, nothing heretofore presented acts as efficiently.”

Ward, AW Tooth Cleaning and Gum Instrumentality. Patent 3043295. 10 July 1962. Print.
Ward's Wondr-Dent Gum Massager

Ward's Wondr-Dent Gum Massager

The Wondr-Dent Gum Massager, shown here (A451.8) in its original cellphone envelope, was made in San Francisco by Westward Dental Products.
Donor: Unknown
Ward's Wondr-Dent Gum Massager patent drawing

Ward's Wondr-Dent Gum Massager patent drawing

In 1962, periodontist A.W. Ward patented his alternative to the toothbrush — a finger cot efficient at cleaning teeth and massaging gums.
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