Way before there were dentists or dental hygienists, people found a need to keep their teeth clean. Dental hygiene may have been crude, but not without some degree of ingenuity. As always, the focus on preventive dental hygiene remains paramount. The history of toothpaste revealed some interesting developments as mankind searched for the ultimate toothpaste to banish stain, toothaches and bad breath.
The oldest record of toothpaste was found written on a piece of dusty papyrus in a Viennese museum, dating as far back as 300-500 B.C. An ancient Egyptian scribe recorded the formula for a “powder for white and perfect teeth.” The list of ingredients included rock salt, mint, dried iris flower and pepper, all crushed together for that magic effect. Other accounts detailed the use of less savory ingredients such as oxen hooves, egg shells, pumice and myrrh (thrown in to offset the smell, for sure).
Separate records dating back to more than 6,000 years ago reveal interesting development in the quest for better oral health in various cultures. In China, they utilized an assortment of twigs and bones, mashed and then mixed with water, salt and flower petals to form a thick paste. They used the sharp edge of bamboo leaf to apply paste to the teeth.
In India, they drew upon their strong Ayurvedic background and came out with a clever way of sprucing up their dental health—they used special twigs filled with sweet nectar. They figured that by chewing on these “tasty” twigs, the abrasive nature of the twigs would clean the teeth and dislodge any unwelcome food particles.
In Greece and Rome, they also found the need for abrasive ingredients, using crushed bones and oyster shells. They also used various flavorings to freshen up breath such as charcoal and bark.
As ingenious as these powders and pastes were, they remained crude and the abrasive ingredients may not be very friendly to tooth enamel and gums. In the 1800’s, soap was used to try to mitigate some of the abrasive nature of these pastes. An actual paste sold in jar became commercially available and, in 1873, Colgate decided to mass produce the toothpaste, as we know today.
Over the years, with research and experimentation, toothpaste has become less abrasive. More synthetic ingredients were added such as sodium lauryl sulfate as a foaming agent and sweeteners to make tooth brushing a more pleasant experience. The 1950’s and 1960’s saw the addition of fluoride for better dental health and from then on, toothpaste took on more sophistication with the use of additives such as gels and whitening agents. Toothpaste for sensitive teeth, toothpaste to whiten and brighten teeth, and toothpaste to strengthen enamel, the choices are as varied as the needs of the populace.
Toothpaste will continue to evolve, with more emphasis on preventing dental decline. To keep your dental health in optimal condition, it is important to get regular checkups and professional cleaning. Contact us today for all your dental needs.