Different Strokes for Different Folks: A History of the Toothbrush

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The Roc-B-Tween toothbrush

Between 1932 and 1988, over 500 different toothbrush designs were patented in the United States, each professing to provide significant improvements in tooth cleansing. Among these, the Roc-B-Tween toothbrush, patented in Oakland in 1938, offered oscillatory movement with a “rack and pinion-like effect” occurring between the bristles of the toothbrush and the spaces between the teeth, effectively cleansing a “vital spot.”

Mattick, BE 2010 A guide to bone toothbrushes of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Bloomington, IN: Xlibris Corp; McMath, JF Dental Instrument. Patent 2122619. 5 July 1938. Print.
Roc-B-Tween toothbrush

Roc-B-Tween toothbrush

This Roc-B-Tween brush (A343.2) has a natural bristle head and a blue plastic handle.
Donor: Dr. John D. Mann (’90)
Roc-B-Tween toothbrush

Roc-B-Tween toothbrush

The replaceable brush head is small, and the hinge is recessed between the handle and pivoting head to “avoid pinching of delicate mouth tissues or membranes.”
Roc-B-Tween toothbrush packaging

Roc-B-Tween toothbrush packaging

Marketing copy on the box proclaims thorough cleaning of every crevice.
Roc-B-Tween toothbrush patent drawing

Roc-B-Tween toothbrush patent drawing

Patent granted in 1938 to J.F. McMath of Oakland.
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