Toothpaste in History

Last time we discussed the history of the toothbrush, but have you ever wondered about the toothpaste you use?  Apparently toothpaste has been around for a long time in some shape or fashion, longer in fact than the toothbrush. The first formula for toothpaste was created by, you guess it, the Egyptians, in 5000 BC.  A concoction made up of crushed rock salt, mint, dried iris flowers and pepper, were mixed together which created a powder, when mixed with water, was used in cleaning teeth. Also a power of crusted oyster shells and bones was often used. But let’s not forget the ancient Greeks and Romans, who used a powder made up of ashes of ox hooves and burned eggshells and added more flavoring to help with bad breath, as well as powdered charcoal and bark.

According to spearseducation.com, here are some important dates in the history of toothpaste:

1780: People were known to scrub their teeth with a powder that was made up of mainly burnt bread. That’s right – what a lot of us eat for breakfast was once considered an effective solution for clean and healthy teeth.

1824: A dentist named Peabody added soap to toothpaste for added cleanliness. Soap was later replaced by sodium lauryn sulfate to create a smooth paste.

1873: The first commercially produced, nice-smelling toothpaste was launched by Colgate and sold in a jar.

1892: Dr. Washington Sheffield is the first person to put toothpaste in a collapsible tube. It has been suggested that this version of toothpaste is the most similar to today’s version.

1914:  Fluoride is added to toothpastes after discovering it significantly decreased dental cavities.

1975: Herbal toothpastes, such as Tom’s, becomes available as an alternative to cleaning teeth without fluoride. These toothpastes include ingredients like peppermint oil, myrrh and plant extracts.

1987: Edible toothpaste is invented. What is mainly used by children just learning to brush their teeth was actually invented by NASA so astronauts could brush their teeth without spitting into a zero-gravity abyss.

1989: Rembrandt invented the first toothpaste that claimed to whiten and brighten your smile.

The toothpastes we find today typically contain fluoride, coloring, flavoring, sweetener, as well as ingredients that make the toothpaste a smooth paste, foam and stay moist. Toothpaste in a tube, is used throughout the world.

Maybe it’s taken 5000 years, but dental care has improved as well as the taste of your toothpaste.

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History of the Toothbrush

Have you ever wondered where the toothbrush came from that you have in your bathroom medicine cabinet?  According to the Library of Congress, the toothbrush that we use today was not invented until 1938. However, there are many other early forms of toothbrushes that have been around since 3000 BC. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used what was referred to as a “chew stick” which was a thin stick with a frayed end.  The teeth were “cleaned” by chewing on the frayed end.

Bristle toothbrushes were invented in China in 1498. These brushes were made with hairs taken from the backs of hog’s necks and attached to bone or bamboo handles.

In 1938, Dupont de Nemours introduced the first nylon toothbrush called Doctor West’s Miracle Toothbrush.  Compared to using a boar bristle toothbrush, this was probably looked on as a miracle! Now we have various toothbrush shapes, sizes, textures and handle styles to choose from.

Toothbrush

Here are some other interesting facts about toothbrushes:

  • The first mass-produced toothbrush was made by William Addis of Clerkenwald, England, around 1780.
  • The first American to patent a toothbrush was H.N. Wadsworth, on November 7, 1857.
  • Mass production of toothbrushes began in America around 1885.
  • One of the first electric toothbrushes to hit the American market was in 1960. It was marketed by the Squibb company under the name of Broxodent.
  • On average, each person in the U.S. purchases three toothbrushes every 2 years although the ADA recommends that toothbrushes be changed every 3 to 4 months.
(courtesy of The Library of Congress)