Dr. Tanya Orr, DDS
6880 W County Hwy 30A
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

History of Toothpaste

Blue tube of toothpaste with a white corrugated white cap

When you reach for your toothpaste in the morning, do you ever think about how that toothpaste came to be? Here, we’ll discuss the history of toothpaste from the very beginning up until present day.

Ancient Times

The first people to clean their teeth with a tooth powder are said to have been the Egyptians in 5000 BC. Similarly, the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Indians used types of tooth powder in 500 BC. These powders were sometimes paired with twigs that had splayed ends. Ancient tooth powder was utilized for the same reasons we brush our teeth today with toothpaste: to freshen breath, whiten teeth, keep gums and teeth clean from food particles, and reduce the occurrence of decay. However, the specific ingredients were vastly different. Both the Greeks and Romans incorporated crushed bones and oyster shells for an abrasive texture, while the Romans also put a little something extra in their toothpaste in an attempt to freshen breath: powdered charcoal and bark. In China, toothpaste ingredients included things like herbal mint, salt, and ginseng.

1800s

In the 1800s, something more closely associated to what we call toothpaste nowadays was developed. Early versions included soap, chalk, ground charcoal, betel nut, and the fruit of the areca palm, which is found in parts of east Africa, the tropical Pacific, Southeast, and South Asia. In the 1850s, toothpaste transitioned from a powdery substance to something more pasty. Then, in 1872, Dr. Washington Wentworth Sheffield developed Crème Dentifrice, even adding mint to flavor the creamy paste, and was credited with inventing modern toothpaste.

1900s

Soap was a main ingredient in toothpaste up until 1945 when it was replaced with other ingredients, such as sodium laurel sulfate, to make a smoother paste. Sodium lauryl sulfate is still a common ingredient in modern toothpastes. The 20th century also saw the creation of toothpaste that was formulated to combat specific dental issues, such as tooth sensitivity and decay, with fluoride being added in 1914.

Present Day

At-home oral hygiene practices and toothpaste have come a long way since ancient times. Today, there are toothpastes for every dental issue imaginable: toothpastes to prevent gum disease, plaque, cavities, discoloration, and bad breath. Our toothpastes include ingredients very different from those of past pastes, including colorings, sweeteners, flavorings, and even those that make the paste smooth, foamy, and moist.

Toothpaste Is Only One Part of Proper Oral Care

Remember that brushing twice a day for two minutes each time with a fluoridated toothpaste is just one aspect of an outstanding oral hygiene routine. Daily flossing, a healthy diet, and biannual checkups are critical too. Contact us today to schedule a checkup and cleaning!

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