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A Sparkling Past: The History of Toothpaste

By Dr. David Wyse on January 17, 2017

A woman holding a toothbrush with toothpaste up to her mouthIt’s easy to take toothpaste for granted. Every morning when we wake up and every night before we go to bed, it’s there waiting for us, ready to help us keep our teeth clean and vibrantly white. Without it, most of us would require a lot more restorative dentistry procedures, true; thankfully, most of us were not alive at a time when toothpaste as we know it did not exist.

Of course, there was a time when people couldn’t simply visit their local drug store or super center and pick up a tube of fluoride toothpaste. However, you may be surprised to learn that the history of toothpaste, the highlights of which our Bloomington, IL dental team has assembled below, actually dates back thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians, Romans, Chinese, and Indians might not have had Cool Wintergreen Blast Tooth Whitening Gel as an option, but their early experiments with tooth cleaning powders paved the way to the toothpaste we know and love today.

We invite you to familiarize yourself with the rich history of toothpaste and then contact Chrisman & Wyse Cosmetic & General Dentistry to schedule your initial consultation. If you think dentistry’s past is interesting, wait until we introduce you to the future.

Seven-Thousand Years of Toothpaste

The history of toothpaste can be traced back approximately seven-thousand years, when it began as a highly abrasive concoction:

  • Roughly 5000 BC: The Egyptians, always forward thinking when it came to dentistry, devised the first toothpaste from the ashes of oxen hooves, burnt egg shells, myrrh, pumice, and water. This mixture was most likely applied to the teeth with the fingers. It was likely effective at removing some superficial plaque and debris from the teeth; however, it also probably damaged the enamel, as well.
  • Roughly 500 BC: After centuries, toothpaste had been replaced by an even more abrasive, but less repulsive, tooth powder in Greece, Rome, China, and India. The common ingredient in most tooth powders was crushed animal bones. The Romans and the Chinese were notable for including ingredients to combat bad breath, the latter using ginseng and herbal mints.
  • 4 AD: By this date, the Egyptians have traded their toothpaste for tooth powder, as well. Their powder is noteworthy for using rock salt instead of ground bones, with mint and iris flowers to improve the taste and freshen the breath.
  • 18th Century: Although dentistry has evolved tremendously through the 18th century, toothpaste has not. Tooth powders remain in vogue, with homemade powders being particularly popular. Burnt bread and crushed charcoal are common ingredients at this point.
  • 1824: A dentist by the name of Peabody adds soap as a means of cleansing the teeth to his tooth powder.
  • 1850: By this point, chalk has become a common ingredient in tooth powders.
  • 1850s: Crème Dentrifice is introduced as the first commercially available toothpaste, signaling the beginning of the end for tooth powders as the primary method of cleaning the teeth.
  • 1873: Colgate introduces the first mass-produced toothpaste onto the market. At first, it is sold in jars; however, once Dr. Washington Sheffield demonstrates that toothpaste can be distributed in collapsible metal tubes, Colgate changes the packaging of its popular new product.
  • 1914: For the first time, fluoride is used as an ingredient in toothpaste.
  • 1945: After more than a century, soap starts to disappear as an ingredient in toothpaste, replaced by ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulphate. This results in toothpaste very similar to that which we use today.

Schedule Your Consultation Today

To schedule your consultation at our cosmetic and general dentistry practice, please contact Chrisman & Wyse today.

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I love my "new teeth." I feel so much better about my smile. The staff at Dr. Chrisman's office was very friendly and professional. I would recommend them to anyone looking for excellent dental care. Jennifer B

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Bloomington Office

207 S Prospect Rd
Ste 2
Bloomington, IL 61704

Open Today 8:00am - 5:00pm

All Hours Directions (309) 663-6393

Bloomington Office

207 S Prospect Rd
Ste 2
Bloomington, IL 61704

Open Today 8:00am - 5:00pm

All Hours Directions (309) 663-6393