Napoleon's toothbrush, c 1795.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This toothbrush with a silver gilt handle was made for Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) of France. The Chinese are credited with inventing the use of toothbrushes and toothpastes, although the ancient Egyptians used branches with frayed ends to clean their teeth. In the West, the use of toothbrushes began to be promoted by French dentists in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.