Toothpaste is used by billions of people around the world everyday. While the formulas of toothpaste have obviously improved over the years, some might be surprised to learn that toothpaste, albeit in a somewhat primitive form, was used by early civilizations thousands of years ago. Let's examine how the history of toothpaste has taken shape throughout the millennia.


The History of Toothpaste and How It Is Made

Historians have estimated that it was around 5,000 B.C. when ancient Egyptians first used a paste-like substance to clean their teeth. This was true despite the fact that the toothbrush had not been invented yet. Shortly after, the Greek and Roman Empires caught on, many followed suit. For example, Indian and Chinese cultures adopted toothpaste around 500 B.C. The purpose of toothpaste then was essentially the same as it is now, to keep the teeth and gums clean and healthy. Although, the composition has definitely changed between now and then. In those days, any combination of ingredients that would likely seem absurd and obscure, were now being mixed together to make toothpaste. A powder derived from the hooves of an ox was once an ingredient in ancient toothpastes. Some societies of Greece and Rome prefered a rather abrasive kind of toothpaste containing crushed bones and oyster shells, powdered charcoal, and bark. Common ingredients include ashes, burnt eggshells, and pumice stone. Herbs like peppermint and others were added for the benefit of a clean flavor and fresh-smelling breath. Chinese civilizations were used ginseng, herbal mint, and salt. Toothpaste was finally joined by the toothbrush- its inseparable companion by around 3,500-3,000 B.C.


The History Of Toothpaste

Toothpaste In The 21st Century

Transitioning to more recent history, toothpaste really started to become the modern product in the 19th century. It began to adapt and become a household item, with soap (yes, soap) being a regular ingredient. At this point, toothpastes were really more of a powder-like consistency than a true paste. The first known pasty product was introduced during the 1850’s. It was called Crème Dentifrice and it came in a glass jar. Colgate started to manufacture a similar toothpaste in a jar in 1873. By the 1890’s, they had moved on to packaging it in a toothpaste tube. Another important development was the addition of fluoride in 1915 to fight tooth decay. Up until around 1945, most toothpastes contained soap as a primary ingredient, but these were soon replaced by a chemical compound called sodium lauryl sulphate. This helped create a less abrasive kind of toothpaste that was much healthier for long-term use. Sodium lauryl sulphate remains are still found in many types of toothpaste today. During much of the middle and later decades of the 20th century, the most significant change in toothpaste was the development of medicated products intended to remedy diseases and/or conditions of the teeth and/or gums. The current trend, which started to emerge at the start of the 21st century, is the demand for toothpastes that whiten the teeth and give them an iridescent shine. A relatively new ingredient called Triclosan provides another level of protection against cavities, plaque, gum disease, and bad breath.  Here's to the bright and shining future of toothpaste!