Saturday, February 24Not Your Ordinary English-Tagalog Dictionary

What is Toothbrush in Tagalog? History, Types, and Sacamuela

The toothbrush in Tagalog is called “sipilyo” or “sepilyo.” This personal oral hygiene tool is the best friend of toothpaste in keeping our teeth clean and strong. A Philippine legend said that “sipilyo” is a coined term from the Spanish words, “si (yes) and “pillo” (naughty). It was believed that toothbrushing is a way to control Filipinos from saying bad words. 

Toothbrush in Tagalog
Toothbrush brands in the Philippines

Nonetheless, the origin of the “toothbrush” dates back to 3500-3000 BC. During that era, Babylonians brush their teeth using a brush made of thin threads from twigs. When tombs of ancient Egyptians were discovered, archeologists found some “toothsticks”. On the other hand, ancient Chinese used chewing sticks made from aromatic twigs. 

The Chinese people are also believed to have invented the first toothbrush with bristles, sometime in the late 1400s. At that time, the bristles were made from pigs’ necks and attached to bone or bamboo, which served as the handle. The idea was brought to Europe, but the bristles used were made from horse hair, and are, therefore, softer. 

Nevertheless, Wisdom Toothbrushes in England is the world’s first toothbrush company and was founded by William Addis, around 1780. While in prison, Addis discovered that a leftover bone from his meal could be used as a toothbrush handle. He bore some holes in the leftover cow bone and inserted hair bristles into it and sealed them. 

Addis’s design was further improved in 1844 when the first three-row brush was developed. But in 1935, American chemist, Dr. Wallace Carothers invented nylon while working at DuPont. The commercial production of nylon began in 1939, which led to the use of nylon in toothbrushes. Nylon is much softer than animal hair and more hygienic. 

American dental surgeon Hiram Nichols Wadsworth was the first person to patent a toothbrush (Patent # 18,653) and was granted in November 1857. However, the mass production of toothbrushes only began in the US around 1885. Meanwhile, the first patent for electric toothbrushes called Motodent was filed by Tomlinson Moseley and was accepted in 1940. 

There are two types of electric toothbrushes – rotating oscillating and sonic. Oscillating toothbrushes oscillate back and forth, while sonic toothbrushes create high-frequency waves that lead to extra-rapid movement. A study suggested that oscillating toothbrushes are better than sonic toothbrushes in reducing plaque and gingivitis. 

In the Philippines, ancient Filipinos used coconut husks to brush their teeth. Some of them chew nga-nga (betel nut-chewing) to clean their teeth. When the Spaniards came, dentistry was introduced and some barbers acts as tooth pullers (sacamuela). The first Filipino dentist is Capital Jose Arevalo (aka Capitan Cheng- Cheng) of Quiapo, Manila.

Since 2004, National Oral Health Month has been observed every February and led by the Philippine Dental Association (PDA). But unfortunately, the Department of Health (DOH) said in 2022 that around 87% of Filipinos have oral health problems. Among the top toothbrush brands in the country are Oral-B, Colgate, and Sensodyne.

Use sipilyo in a sentence. 


Payo ng mga dentista, dapat magpalit tayo ng sipilyo tuwing ika-tatlo o ika-apat na buwan. 


As advised by dentists, we should replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.

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