A Brief History of Toothpaste

Today, toothpaste has color, flavor, sparkles, whiteners, and more. Each member of your family can choose the toothpaste type they like best. But it wasn’t always like this. In fact, the first toothpastes were pretty rudimentary, as you might well imagine. Here, Dr. Bevin Malley and the team at Carolina Kids Dentistry walk you through the history of toothpaste!

A Humble Beginning

The need to clean our teeth has been around for millions of years. Even ancient peoples recognized the need to remove the many substances that collect on teeth. Research points us to 3000 to 5000 BC when ancient Egyptians used a dental cream made of powdered ashes. These ashes came from burning myrrh, oxen hooves, egg shells, and pumice. They were then mixed with water. While this doesn’t sound attractive in the least, it apparently did the trick back in the day.

Greeks and Romans later added flavoring in the form of bark and powdered charcoal to make their teeth-cleaning concoction a bit more palatable.

Fast forward to 50 BC, and we find that toothpaste in China and India was perhaps a little more pleasing to the palette. They added herbal mints, Ginseng, and herbs to their tooth powders and pastes.

Later, the Egyptians stepped up their game with regard to toothpaste and began adding dried iris flowers, mint, rock salt, and pepper to their “toothpaste.”

It’s even reported that people once used a powder created from burnt bread to brush their teeth. We’re not sure how this worked, but we’re reasonably certain that teeth didn’t look any whiter after brushing with this substance!

Into the “Modern” Era

In the 1800s, we see the beginnings of the toothpaste that we use every day. A dentist named Dr. Peabody added soap to toothpaste. Later, soap was replaced by sodium lauryl sulfate, resulting in a smooth paste that we might recognize as toothpaste.

Colgate began producing pleasant-smelling toothpaste in a jar in the 1870s, and the first tube of toothpaste was produced by Dr. Washington Sheffield in 1892.

Fluoride was added to toothpaste in 1914.

Fast Forward to Today

Our toothpaste choices today are oftentimes overwhelming. There’s something for everyone in the toothpaste aisle. So, the next time your kids complain about brushing their teeth, remind them of toothpaste’s humble beginnings. At least they don’t have to brush with burnt bread!



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