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The History of Toothpaste Goes Back Thousands of Years

By Stephen Rogers on January 15, 2017

Toothpaste on a toothbrushHere at our Long Island restorative dentistry practice, we always take time to answer questions that our patients may have. Sometimes this involves tips for preventative care, while other times it involves details about treatments. We rarely get asked about dental care history, but it's such a fascinating topic, and one that we're happy to discuss.

Given this, we'd like to go over the history of a dental product that many of us take for granted: toothpaste.

The Ancient Egyptian Ancestor of Modern Toothpaste

The first toothpaste dates back all the way to Ancient Egypt. It appeared some time between 5000 BC and 3000 BC. This dental cream was applied to teeth and polished and removed using a rag. This cream probably didn't taste very good. Ingredients for this dental cream typically included myrrh, pumice, ground egg shells, and even ground ox hooves.

Other Forms of Ancient Toothpaste

The Egyptians weren't the only ancient civilization with a dental cream. The Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans also had their own version of this substance, and it likely tasted just as bad. Common ingredients included crushed bones, crushed oyster shells, powdered tree bark, and powdered charcoal.

In China roughly 500 BC, a more palatable dental cream was used. These creams often included mint and ginseng to help improve a person's breath. A chew stick (an ancient ancestor of the toothbrush) was common employed to help polish teeth and remove food particles.

19th Century Tooth Powders

Today many people brush their teeth using baking soda. This practice goes back hundreds of years to the age of tooth powders. During the 1800s, many people polished their teeth using a toothbrush and an abrasive cleaning powder. These early powders were very abrasive, however, often including salt, crushed brick, charcoal, and chalk. As you can imagine, these powders harmed tooth enamel as well as gum tissue in many cases.

The Birth of Toothpaste as We Know It

It was during the 1820s that toothpaste as we know it was finally born. It was essentially a tooth powder with soap added to it. In the 1850s, chalk was added to the toothpaste. The company Colgate would eventually mass produce this soap and tooth powder mixture in 1873.

The Creation of the Toothpaste Tube

We generally take the tube of toothpaste for granted. Before the toothpaste tube, people tended to buy their toothpaste out of jars or boxes. It wasn't until the 1880s that the toothpaste tube was used. You can credit Dr. Washington Sheffield and his brand of toothpaste for this now standard mode of storage.

The 1950s: Adding Fluoride to Toothpaste

One of the biggest advances in toothpaste during the 20th century took place in the 1950s. With fluoride added to city water supplies during the 1940s, it's no surprise that it would eventually make its way into toothpaste to help strengthen tooth enamel.

More Recent Advances in Toothpaste History

While the major innovations in toothpaste seem to be back in the past, more recent decades have shown special toothpaste formulas for teeth whitening and for sensitive teeth. Comfort and cosmetics aren't anything to scoff at when it comes to dental hygiene.

Learn More About Advanced Dental Care

For more information about toothpaste, general dentistry needs, and how you can make your smile look its very best, we encourage you to contact our team of experienced dentists today. The team here at our practice looks forward to your visit and discussing these issues in greater detail.

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Massapequa Office

101 New York Ave
Massapequa, NY 11758

Open Today 9:00am - 9:00pm

More Info Directions (516) 468-7103