Toothpaste’s Place in History

A bright, colorful toothpaste is much different than the powders of ancient history.

Which brand of toothpaste do you use? A look down the toothpaste aisle reveals stacks of the stuff, each style claiming to be the best at fighting cavities, freshening breath, or whitening teeth. Dental care has come a long way from it’s origins, so let’s take a look at where toothpaste originated and why we have such a variety to choose from in the supermarket aisle.

Where Toothpaste Started

Long before even the most basic toothbrushes were invented around 5000 BC, the Egyptians were using pastes to clean their teeth. Ancient Greeks and Romans, as well as people in later centuries from China and India, also used a variety of pastes to freshen their breath and clean their teeth. So, wanting fresh breath and a healthy mouth is nothing new, but the ingredients in these pastes are very different! For example, using items like burnt eggshells, ground-up bones, charcoal, or powdered ox hooves probably had no breath-freshening benefits. The Chinese may have realized this and thus added herbs, salt and ginseng to their paste concoctions.

A few thousand years later, there was some kind improvement. In the 1800s, soap and chalk were used in toothpastes and some even contained betel nut for a little medicinal “zing.” Until the 1850s, however, toothpaste wasn’t actually a paste, but instead a powder that became a paste when it came into contact with water or saliva. In the 1870s, Colgate marketed toothpaste in a jar called Crème Dentifrice and in the 1890s it was produced in tubes, like we have today. Thus the great household debate began — should the tube be squeezed from the bottom or the middle?

Fluoride Appears in Toothpaste

Fluoride toothpastes, strongly recommended by your Sacramento dentists, were introduced in 1914. The benefits and risks of fluoride have been discussed and debated, but it is scientifically proven in study after study that fluoride protects the teeth from decay through various mechanisms. The addition of fluoride to toothpaste substantially improved dental health by strengthening the enamel of each and every user who brushes daily and has a good oral care regimen.

So the next time you’re standing in the toothpaste aisle wondering which one to choose, be grateful you don’t have to check the ingredients for burnt eggshells or crushed bones. With items like that, you probably wouldn’t need to be reminded to not swallow your toothpaste! And remember, the dentists at the Sacramento Dentistry Group are conveniently located downtown, so make your appointment today. We even have toothpaste samples for you to take home and try after your next exam and cleaning!

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