The History of Toothpaste Is Longer Than You Think By Alex Hecht on January 24, 2017

A toothbrush with toothpasteYou may be surprised to learn that toothpaste has a fascinating history. For instance, did you know that toothpaste predates the toothbrush? It even predates the toothbrush's ancestor known as the chew stick (first appeared in 3500 BC).

While ancient history is a far remove from the advanced technology at our Staten Island restorative dentistry practice, we want to trace the development of toothpaste since it's an interesting story.

Ancient Dental Creams for Polishing Teeth

The first toothpaste was a special dental cream used in Ancient Egyptian times between 5000 BC and 3000 BC. People would apply the dental cream to their teeth and polish their smile using a rag. Unfortunately this cream didn't taste all that great, Common ingredients included ground ox hooves, crushed egg shells, pumice, and myrrh.

Other ancient civilizations also used dental creams. In Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, a similar dental cream could be found. Active ingredients in these Greek and Roman toothpastes included oyster shell, charcoal, tree bark, and bone.

Improved Dental Creams in China

The dental cream used in China circa 500 BC sounds a lot more palatable than the earlier Egyptian, Greek, and Roman dental creams. It included mint and ginseng to help polish teeth and freshen the breath. Combined with their early chew sticks using aromatic twigs and you have an ideal form of dental care given the time period.

Tooth Powders in the 19th Century

Tooth powders were a popular polishing option in the 19th century. It's similar to brushing your teeth with baking soda, which many people do today.

Similar does not mean it's the same, however.

These early dental powders tended to contain crushed brick, salt, chalk, and charcoal. As you can imagine, this would wear down enamel pretty bad and harm the gumline as well.

Toothpaste as We Know It

Toothpaste as well know it would be born in the 1820s. This early toothpaste combined tooth powders and soap. By the 1850s, this paste incorporated a little bit of chalk. Colgate started the mass production of toothpaste in 1873.

The Toothpaste Tube

Of course, early toothpaste tended to be sold in jars and boxes. The toothpaste tube was its own invention in the 1880s. Dr. Washington Sheffield sold his own personal brand of toothpaste out of a convenient collapsible tube, a container we take for granted today.

Fluoride Added to Toothpaste

In the 1940s, cities in the United States began to add fluoride to their water supplies to help strengthen and fortify the teeth. Toothpaste would have fluoride added to it come the 1950s.

Other Innovations in the Development of Toothpaste

All things considered, nothing extremely revolutionary has happened to toothpaste in the last few decade, but innovations continue to be made. Additives have helped people who have sensitive teeth and can also whiten smiles to a certain degree. Better ingredients are being used as well. What the future holds is anyone's guess.

Learn More About Your Dental Care Needs

For more information on how you can improve the overall health of your smile as well as its beauty, be sure to contact our team of dental care experts today. The team at our practice is here to help you have the best smile possible.

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Dr. Alex Hecht and Dr. Jason Hecht

Staten Island Aesthetic & Implant Dentist

Our family-run practice, led by Dr. Alex Hecht and Dr. Jason Hecht, is guided by compassionate and genuine care for our patients. Several distinctions set us apart:

  • Creating beautiful smiles since 1978
  • One of the largest practices in the region
  • Excellence in treating even the most complex cases
  • Advanced cone beam computed tomography (CT) scanner
  • Dedication to continuing education
  • Incorporation of the latest techniques

To set up a consultation or learn more about our services, reach out to our office online or call (718) 705-4434.

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