A Toothpaste Timeline

OUR NIGHTLY BRUSHING ROUTINE wouldn’t be complete without that minty-fresh toothpaste tingle, right? But toothpaste hasn’t always been soft and minty. Years ago, it was less pleasant to use.

Toothpaste Existed As Early As 5000 B.C.

The oldest form of toothpaste known was created by the Egyptians. The powder formula included crushed rock salt, mint, pepper, and dried iris flowers. Sometimes, other abrasive materials like ox-hoof ashes, burnt eggshells, or oyster shells were added.

Would You Recognize Toothpastes From The Past?

Around 1780, burnt toast was made into powder and used as a tooth-cleaning agent. That probably wasn’t the best idea. Around 1800 soap was added to tooth powders for “cleanliness”. Not long after that, a smooth paste—the texture we’re used to today—was created for the first time.

In 1873 the first commercially produced toothpaste was sold in jars. It wasn’t until 20 years later that toothpaste was sold in a collapsible tube, similar to those we use today. After the discovery of fluoride’s decay prevention qualities, it was added to toothpaste in 1914.

Modern Toothpaste Has A Few Standard Elements

Each major ingredient in modern toothpaste makes brushing teeth easy, comfortable, effective and tasty. Here are the basic components you’ll find:

  • Fluoride fights off decay by strengthening tooth enamel.
  • Abrasives scrub the surface of the tooth without scratching or damaging enamel.
  • Flavors come from sweetening agents such as saccharin or sorbitol. (The ADA won’t give its seal of acceptance to toothpastes with decay-causing sugar.)
  • Humectants like sorbitol and glycerol trap water in the toothpaste so that when you squeeze the tube, you get a smooth substance.
  • Detergents give us the foaming effect we love in our toothpaste. Sodium lauryl sulfate is the one you’ll most often see.

Get The Most From Your At-Home Dental Care

The important thing to remember about toothpaste is that our toothbrushing habits and technique matter much more than the toothpaste brand we use. However, while shopping for toothpaste, look for the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of acceptance. This confirms that a product has met the criteria for effectiveness and safety.

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

Thanks for your trust in our practice!

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

Posted in Blog
One comment on “A Toothpaste Timeline
  1. Mo Dawley says:

    Thank you for the interesting and funny blog posts in this newsletter issue! I have found as you suggest that good eating habits and NO processed sugar are critical to my mouth health. I also like to swish/drink water during the day in between brushing. Keeping my body active (encouraging bloodflow)I’m sure is also a benefit.

    I have concerns about toothpastes and the chemicals they employ. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate for example (used in toothpaste and other products) is a questionable chemical. It is a known irritant and its effects on the endocrine system, on developmental health, safety in groundwater and its persistence in the environment (how long it stays in the environment and its long-term effects) are not known.

    Links to cancer are inconclusive

    I look for toothpastes that are SLS free and use just a small dot of paste which seems to work fine! I find that in between brushing with water or a substitute of my second brushing of the day with a very small amount of baking soda mixed with water on my toothbrush works great. I use the brushing technique you teach: brushing each tooth while concentrating at the gum line. Having made good friends with each of my teeth I am pleased to visit them every day.

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