You might be surprised to learn that in the last 7000 years toothpaste hasn’t really changed too much!
The first record we have of “toothpaste” is from the Ancient Egyptians in around 5000 BC. This was more of a tooth powder that water was added to create the paste. Research shows that this was primarily made of powdered ashes from oxen hooves, myrrh, eggshells, crushed rock salt, and pumice. Suffice to say, it probably tasted terrible and worked by scraping and scratching the teeth as the person brushed.
A little while later, there is evidence from the Greek and Roman societies that they were adding more abrasives to the mix such as crushed bones and oyster shells. This is also the first time we see the addition of flavorings added as well, there is evidence that barks and charcoals were being added to improve the taste and help with the bad breath issue.
Around 500 BC, in China and India people were using Ginseng, herbal mints, and salt. This probably tasted a lot better than the early Egyptian version. These crude tooth powders continued to be used until the 1800s!
In 1824, a dentist named Dr. Peabody began adding soap to abrasive ingredients for more cleaning power. Later on, soap was replaced by a detergent called sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) for better consistency. This was the turning point from what were typically actual tooth powders to a more paste-like texture we all know.
Modern toothpaste chronology:
In 1873 the first smooth, good smelling paste was created by Colgate and sold in tiny glass jars.
In 1892, Dr. Washington Sheffield introduced the first collapsible toothpaste tube.
Fluoride was added in 1914 after studies show its many benefits to teeth.
During WW2, due to the tin and lead shortage toothpaste tubes began to transition to the plastic tube we see today.
Edible toothpaste was invented by NASA for astronauts to brush in space without spitting. It continues to be used today by children while they are still learning how to brush.
In 1989, Rembrandt marketed the first “whitening” toothpaste that would “whiten and brighten your smile.” Other toothpaste producers quickly followed suit and now whitening toothpaste is one of the most popular types available.
Since the 1980s there have been so many additions to toothpaste such as triclosan, potassium nitrate, whitening agents, gels, and many more. Some have been beneficial, others not so much.