The History of Toothpaste

Throughout history, people have tried many methods to clean their teeth.

From 300-500 BC ancient civilizations used harsh and toxic solutions to clean stains from their teeth. The mixture consisted of crushed bone, egg and oyster shell and the ingredients were so abrasive that they harmed the enamel of the teeth.

Ancient Egyptians mixed powdered pumice with vinegar to clean their teeth. Mint and dried iris flowers were added later for flavor and to keep the mouth clean.

Prior to the 1850’s “toothpastes” were usually powders. Before the invention of the toothbrush, dental powder was applied onto rags and rubbed onto the teeth. Chew sticks were also used to apply the dental cream. Unfortunately the availability of this advanced oral hygiene was limited only to the rich.

It wasn’t until after 1850 that a dental surgeon, Dr. Washington Wentworth Sheffield, invented the first toothpaste. He used his invention, which he called Crème Dentifrice, in his practice which was located in New London, Connecticut. After rave reviews from his patients he decided to patent the toothpaste and put in on the market. However, it didn’t catch on with public until after his son Dr. Lucius Sheffield invented collapsible metal tubes for the toothpaste. The Sheffield Tube Company still exists today.

Modern toothpastes were developed in the second half of the twentieth century. They are often formulated to aid in the treatment of specific diseases and conditions.

Many of today’s toothpastes contain fluoride. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from bacteria and sugars in the mouth. It also reverses early decay. In children under six years of age, fluoride becomes incorporated into the development of permanent teeth, making it difficult for acids to demineralize the teeth.

Today we have a better understanding of toothpaste’s value in oral hygiene and the ingredients have changed after extensive research.

One ingredient that has remained the same since ancient days is flavoring the paste with mint. You can now find toothpaste in a variety of flavors including spearmint, peppermint and wintergreen.

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