Toothpaste on a Timeline

It’s no secret that brushing your teeth twice daily can prevent dental caries and periodontal disease, but while you perform your ritual do you ever stop to think about how that toothpaste got on your brush. You put it there, of course, but toothpaste didn’t always look like it does today. The tube you either squeeze from the middle or carefully roll up from the bottom has a history all of its own, and it starts all the way back to the beginning of written history.

The Beginning

No matter if you’re eating a diet of woolly mammoth or bacon barbecue cheeseburgers, oral bacteria will grow and cause damage to your teeth. Ancient Egyptians were the first civilization to be credited with creating and using an abrasive substance to clean their teeth. Researchers discovered that between 3000 and 5000 BC, the Pharaohs mixed together ashes from burnt ox hooves, eggshells, ground pumice, and myrrh with water and used the mixture to scrape away the plaque and tartar that most certainly was living and growing on their teeth. Ancient Greek and Roman rulers also used abrasive powders comprised of crushed bone, oyster shells, powdered charcoal, and bark. At the same time, around 500 BC, Eastern civilizations were also hard at work creating tooth cleaning agents. The Chinese at this point were using salt, ginseng and other herbs to flavor their abrasive, tooth cleaning powders – a trend that was destined to take off.

Fast forward to the 1800s. Yes, it is believed that the technology of toothpaste was dealt with in a, “If it’s not broken, no need to fix it,” attitude for centuries. At this point mild soaps, betel nut, and chalk was added to the mix. Up until this point these tooth-cleaning agents were only available in powder form. Users needed to mix them with water to form a paste they could use to clean their teeth. In 1850s the grandfather of toothpaste as we know it was born. Available in jars, a product called Creme Dentifrice was introduced. No mixing meant easier oral hygiene and in 1873 Colgate was the first company to mass produce dental cream in jars. Moving the ease of use right along, in 1890 they brought the first toothpaste tube to market.Soap was finally phased out of toothpaste production in the late 1940s, to be replaced by sodium lauryl sulphate. This ingredient is what makes toothpaste paste – and that, as they say, is history.

Modern Toothpaste

Although tooth-cleaning agents have been around since the dawn of written history, it wasn’t until relatively recently that the production of this product exploded like a firework. Technology is constantly moving forward and now there are toothpastes that help fight plaque and tartar, whiten teeth, decrease sensitivity, and even prevent tooth decay. First, however, came the flavors. Since the Chinese in 500 BC, people have been interested in using dental products that are pleasant to taste. On any grocery store shelf in America, you will see endless choices of mints, peppermint, spearmint, wintergreen, and variations of those. However in other parts of the world other flavors are preferred. Cinnamon, anise, and fennel are popular in Eastern countries for example. Further, there are many different fun flavors available for children that include strawberry, lemon, and even bubblegum. Making toothpaste fun and flavorful is just one way that dentists can encourage their patients to care for their teeth.

The addition of fluoride and xylitol are also leaps and bounds in making toothpaste as beneficial to users as possible. Both products have proven to help prevent the occurrence and progression of dental caries. There are even toothpastes that can help patients with sensitive teeth rebuild and repair their enamel so they can enjoy the hot and cold foods they once loved.

So the next time that you squeeze that tube of toothpaste onto your toothbrush, smile and remember how far this dental mainstay has come. From crushed shells and charcoal to strawberry, xylitol-infused paste in a tube with cartoon characters on it, one thing is certain – toothpaste isn’t going anywhere.

If you are overwhelmed at your choices in the dental aisle, have no fear. If a toothpaste is ADA approved, it has met the rigorous standards and is safe to use.  When choosing a toothpaste that is best for you, it’s always good to start with an issue you hope to resolve. Are you looking for whiter teeth, cavity prevention, or just an overall toothpaste that is designed to take care of everything? Once you have that decided, look for a flavor you will enjoy. Be excited about brushing your teeth and choose something fun. If you still have questions don’t hesitate to give us a call at our Melbourne, Florida office, we always can offer you suggestions.