A long history of brushing teeth

Everyday we squeeze some toothpaste onto our brushes but have you ever wondered when we first started brushing our teeth? At what point in human history did we realise the importance of looking after our teeth? Let’s take a look at the origins of toothpaste.

Egyptians are said to have started using a paste to clean their teeth around 5000BC, long before toothbrushes were invented. The Ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have used toothpastes, and people in China and India first used toothpaste around 500BC. These early toothpastes didn’t resemble our toothpaste today though.

Ancient toothpastes were used to combat some of the same issues that we have now, keeping teeth and gums clean, whitening teeth and the desire for fresh breath. The ingredients used in ancient toothpastes were very different and varied. Ingredients used included a powder of ox hooves’ ashes and burnt eggshells, that was combined with pumice. The Greeks and Romans preferred more abrasive paste and their toothpaste included crushed bones and oyster shells. The Romans added more flavouring to help with bad breath along with powdered charcoal and bark. The Chinese also used a wide variety of substances in toothpastes over time that have included ginseng, herbal mints and salt.

Before the middle of the 19th century, ‘toothpastes’ were usually powders. During the 1850s, a new toothpaste in a jar called a Crème Dentifrice was developed and in 1873 Colgate started the mass production of  toothpaste in jars. The first toothpaste in a tube, similar to current toothpaste tubes first began to be mass produced by Colgate in the 1890s. To find your very own Dentist Dublin, visit http://www.docklandsdental.ie/.

The modern development of toothpastes began in the 19th century. The first pastes contained soap and in the 1850s chalk was included. Betel nut was included in toothpaste in England in the 1800s, and in the 1860s a home encyclopedia described a home-made toothpaste that used ground charcoal.

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Toothpastes still contained soap until well after the Second World War. After that time, soap was replaced by other ingredients to make the paste into a smooth paste or emulsion – such as sodium lauryl sulphate, an ingredient found in toothpastes today.

From the 1950’s modern toothpastes were developed to help prevent or treat specific diseases and conditions such as tooth sensitivity. Fluoride was added to toothpastes to help prevent decay in 1914. Toothpastes with very low abrasiveness were also developed to help prevent the problems caused by brushing too hard. Advances that have taken place recently included developing whitening toothpaste and pastes containing Triclosan. Triclosan helps to provide extra protection against the effects of gum disease, calculus, bad breath, plaque and caries.

The toothpastes that we buy and use today contain fluoride, colouring, flavouring, sweetener and  ingredients that create a smooth paste, make the paste able to foam and stay moist. Individual toothpastes also may contain special ingredients to help with certain conditions. Toothpaste in tubes is used throughout the world and has been a very successful invention.