Toothpaste is such a staple in our modern world, that your children have no idea that their ancestors didn’t have access to the flavorful tubes of dental cream that we take for granted today. Never fear, your favorite New York City pediatric dentist is here to provide the details!
Who Invented Toothpaste?
The history books have given us no clue as to the actual “inventor” of toothpaste, but it’s thought that the ancient Egyptians were the first to create a mixture to cleanse teeth. As long ago as 5000BC (long before the invention of the toothbrush), the ancients were mixing burnt eggshells and ox hoof ash to remove stains and food from teeth.
Not to be left out, the ancient Romans and Greeks, and the upper classes in India mixed crushed bone and oyster shells with bark and powdered charcoal to clean their teeth. The Chinese upped the ante by adding herbal mints, salt and ginseng. Minty fresh!
The World’s Oldest Toothpaste Recipe
Found in the basement of a Viennese museum is this recipe from 4th century Egypt. Written on parchment, it instructs the reader to crush together one part dried iris flower and one part salt with two parts mint and a pinch of pepper to experience “white and perfect teeth.”
Toothpaste in the 1800s
A mouthful of soap would taste awful to your children but the 1800s versions of powdered toothpastes were based on soap, along with a little bit of charcoal. Manufacturers also used chalk and betel nut, which has, in the intervening years, been found to be quite unhealthy! Jars of creamy toothpastes were introduced in the 1850s, with the first roll-able toothpaste tube brought to market in 1892.
As mentioned above, soap was a primary ingredient in toothpastes but that changed in the mid-1940s, when sodium lauryl sulphate was added to make a smoother product, and soap was phased out.