A Short History of Toothpaste

YOUR NIGHTLY BRUSHING ROUTINE wouldn’t be the same without the taste of minty-fresh toothpaste. But toothpaste wasn’t always minty or soft. It used to be a lot less pleasant to use.

The First Toothpaste

The ancient Egyptians around 5000BC created what is believed to be the very first toothpaste. It wasn’t a paste but a powder. The ‘tooth-powder’ was made from crushed rock salt, mint, pepper, and dried iris flowers. Sometimes, other abrasive materials like ox-hoof ashes, burnt eggshells, or oyster shells were added.

Toothpaste’s Evolution

Around 1780 someone came up with the rather silly idea of using burnt toast to clean teeth. It was turned it into a powder to use as a tooth-cleaning agent. Soap was added to tooth powders around 1800 to improve cleanliness. Not long after that, a smooth paste like we have today, was created for the first time.

In 1873 the first commercially produced toothpaste was sold in jars. A collapsible tube of toothpaste, similar to those we use today, was introduced 20 years later. Calcium fluoride was added to toothpaste in Germany in the 1890s, but it wasn’t until 1914 that fluoride’s decay prevention qualities lead to it being added to toothpastes.

Modern Toothpastes

Modern toothpastes are formulated to make brushing teeth easy, comfortable, effective and tasty. These are the basic ingredients you will find in a toothpaste:

  • Fluoride helps prevent decay by strengthening tooth enamel.
  • Mild Abrasives scrub the surface of the tooth without scratching or damaging enamel.
  • Flavourings come from sweetening agents such as saccharin or sorbitol. You wouldn’t want to use toothpaste that contains sugar!
  • Humectants like sorbitol and glycerol keep the toothpaste smooth by trapping water.
  • Detergents provide the foaming effect we love in our toothpaste. Sodium lauryl sulfate is the most common one.

Get The Most From Your Toothpaste

Your tooth-brushing techniques and habits are more important than the brand of toothpaste you use. The most important ingredient in your toothpaste is fluoride, look for a toothpaste that has at least 1450ppm of fluoride in it. This means you toothpaste will be effective in helping you avoid tooth decay.

If you have any other questions about your personal oral hygiene routine, talk with us about it! We love to hear from you.

Top image by Flickr user Eli Duke used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.