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The History Of Toothpaste

We use toothpaste every day, but do we really know how this dental gel was invented? When did toothpaste come about? Is toothpaste something we came up with in recent years or something we would later take from our ancestors?

Find out here.

The Beginning of Toothpaste

Toothpaste is believed to have originated six thousand years ago in China, Egypt, and India.

Ancient China

The Chinese would use bones and twigs and then mash them together with flower petals, salt, and water to make a thick paste. This was their version of toothpaste. Then, the Ancient Chinese would apply this paste on the end of a bamboo leaf to place it on the teeth.

Apart from toothbrushing, there were other ways the Ancient Chinese would keep their teeth clean and breath smelling fresh. For instance, rinsing the mouth with tea after eating, using poria fungus as toothpaste, and sprinkling certain herbs or spices into one’s mouth would also be important for the Ancient Chinese.

Ancient Egypt

Manuscripts from 400s in Ancient Egypt depicted a recipe for the most efficient toothpaste. A mixture of pepper, salt, iris flowers, and wet mint leaves would often be ingredients in Egyptian toothpaste. Using the end of a split twig, like the Chinese, this paste would then be applied.

Some documentation also refers to a type of toothpaste that is deemed as urine-based and is particularly well-known in Rome. Research on the benefits of urine therapy might back up the effectiveness of brushing with urine.

Ancient India

Toothbrushing in Ancient India was quite different from the Ancient Chinese and Egyptians. Twigs were also utilized for brushing. However, the Ancient Indians would fill these twigs with sweet nectar prior to brushing.

Ancient Indians would then chew on the twig, gently rubbing it against their teeth in the process. As a result, the ancient people of India enjoyed whiter teeth, a cleaner mouth, and fresher breath.

Related: History of Toothbrushes

Ancient Toothpaste versus Modern Toothpaste

While surely, the ancient peoples of our past had no idea the dangers of poor oral health habits, toothbrushing was still critical in their eyes. For example, freshening the breath and whitening the teeth were primary concerns of our ancestors. Much of which our ancestors would do would be for aesthetic purposes. Although, some research indicates that our ancient ancestors had some knowledge of the importance of healthy teeth and gums.

Ancient toothpaste ingredients were, however, quite varied but overall different from ours today. In the past, toothpaste ingredients might vary from burnt eggshells mixed with pumice to ashes or even ox hoove powder.

Ancient Romans and Greeks would often prefer their toothpaste to contain oyster shells and crushed bones for greater abrasion. For extra flavor and for the treatment of unpleasant breath, bark and charcoal might also be apart of Romans’ toothpaste.

Present day, toothpaste often contains hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and fluoride to protect the teeth from decay. The best toothpastes today are the ones that focus on cavity protection. As a result, these modern pastes would eventually dramatically reduce the number of dentures needed in the USA alone.

The development of toothpaste in the contemporary era didn’t begin until the 1800s.

As disgusting as it might sound to us today, early versions of toothpaste would contain soap. It wasn’t uncommon for chalk to also be an ingredient in toothpastes in the 1850s. Meanwhile, in the 1800s, betel nut would another addition to toothpaste. A decade later, the use of ground charcoal in toothpaste was depicted in a home encyclopedia.

Modern toothpaste came in the 2nd half of 20th century.

Modern toothpaste as we know today often contain specific formulations to avoid or treat certain ailments such as tooth sensitivity. In 1914, fluoride toothpaste was fresh on the market, with the goal to aid with tooth decay. Toothpaste with low abrasive properties also would become part of our toothpaste choices.

One of the most recent advances in toothpaste are those containing Triclosan. This ingredient is said to provide protection against calculus, gum disease, unpleasant breath, plaque, and caries. The addition of tooth whitening toothpastes in stores today also give us greater authority in taking charge of our oral health and aesthetics.

Today, we are also fortunate enough to have the option of all-natural toothpastes. That said, the wide selection of toothpastes on the market ensures there is something for everyone.


Disclaimer: The oral health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. Hawaii Family Dental strongly recommends to always consult licensed dentists or other qualified health care professionals for any questions concerning your oral health.

1 thought on “The History Of Toothpaste

  1. Zequek Estrada - July 14, 2016

    I don’t know how I would feel about mashed up bones and twigs combined with flower petals, salt, and water for toothpaste. The history of toothpaste is pretty interesting but I’m glad that I live in the time period that I do. It’s so convenient today because there’re so many types and all you have to do is ask a dentist which one would be best.

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