What is the history of toothpaste? It’s hard to imagine dental care today without a toothbrush or toothpaste. They’re such well-designed and efficient ways to fight cavities and tooth decay. Yet have you ever wondered how these items we take for granted came to be?
It may not sound interesting on the surface, but the history of this common item dates back to the ancient world. It just goes to show how much people cared about having a beautiful smile.
Ancient Egyptian Toothpaste
The first toothpaste (used sometime between 5000 BC and 3000 BC) was a type of polishing cream. This dental cream would be applied to the teeth and removed with a rag. Common ingredients of this Ancient Egyptian toothpaste included ground eggshells, ground ox hooves, myrrh, and pumice. While it might have been effective, it probably didn’t taste all that great.
Other Toothpaste of the Ancient World
The Egyptians weren’t the only ones with a dental cream The Ancient Greeks and the Ancient Romans also had their versions of dental creams, which were perhaps inspired by the Egyptian version. These Greek and Roman dental creams probably didn’t taste good either, often containing tree bark, charcoal, oyster shells, and ground-up bones.
The Ancient Chinese had a much more fragrant and palatable dental cream that’s traced back to 500 BC. This Chinese dental cream often included ginseng or mint to improve the breath.
19th Century Tooth Powders
Many people use baking soda to brush their teeth. It’s a practice that’s hundreds of years old. Back in the 1800s, tooth powders were a common way to clean teeth. These powders were not as safe as baking soda, however. Common ingredients back then included chalk, salt, crushed brick, and charcoal, all of which could possibly harm tooth enamel and the gumline.
The Birth of Toothpaste as We Know It
Toothpaste in a recognizable form was born in the 1820s. It involved soap being added to tooth powders. Chalk would be added to this toothpaste in the 1850s. By 1873, Colgate would begin mass-producing this revolutionary toothpaste product.
The Invention of the Toothpaste Tube
We take the toothpaste tube for granted these days, but the fact is that toothpaste used to be sold in jars and boxes up until the 1880s. During that decade of the 19th century, Dr. Washington Sheffield sold his toothpaste in a convenient collapsible tube.
The 1950s: Putting Fluoride in Toothpaste
One of the last key innovations in the history of toothpaste is the addition of fluoride. Water fluoridation started in the United States during the 1940s. It makes sense that fluoride would get added to toothpaste in order to improve the strength of a person’s tooth enamel.
More Recent Toothpaste History
Since the 1950s, the key innovations in toothpaste have tended to involve cosmetics and comfort. Teeth whitening and dental bleaching ingredients have made their way into toothpaste to help brighten smiles. In addition, there are special toothpaste’s on the market that is designed for people who suffer from tooth sensitivity, as well as, toothpaste for people with periodontal disease.