Toothpaste through the ages

Toothpaste has a storied and sparkling history.

In a recent article we talked about toothbrushes, their history and how they've evolved into the familiar, nylon-bristled tools that we all keep in the bathroom. That's only one half of the equation though, and toothbrushes would be far less effective without their good buddy and trusted companion – toothpaste!

Just like a sturdy brush, toothpaste plays a crucial role in keeping your teeth clean and free from plaque. Not to mention, modern toothpaste contains additives like fluoride that strengthen your enamel against decay while also providing crucial minerals to your teeth. Just like brushes, toothpaste has a long and storied history that reflects changes in dental technology over the centuries, reinforcing a very simple truth – that we humans have always cared about keeping our smile looking good. 

In this article, we'll dive into the history of toothpaste, and discuss some of the newer innovations to the substance that can help keep your chompers looking fresh.

How much do you really know about toothpaste? How much do you really know about toothpaste?

The history of toothpaste

The first toothpaste that we know of was used by the ancient Egyptians many thousands of years ago. This would have been paired with the 'tooth sticks' that were used at the time, which were effectively twigs. Even in this rudimentary form, the use of toothpaste was the same, it kept the mouth clean and free from disease. The evidence suggests that toothpaste ingredients were incredibly varied, consisting of everything from pumice to burnt eggshells, and even powdered ox hoof! Some civilisations, like the Romans and Greeks, preferred a more abrasive paste with crushed bones and shells. 

Toothpaste technology remained relatively undeveloped until more recent times, when it began to incorporate a type of soap in the 1800s, along with chalk for whitening. This was also the time where the substance really became a paste – having previously been a form of powder that would be rubbed on the teeth prior to brushing.

There are so many toothpaste options that it can actually be a bit overwhelming.

Toothpaste today

The first mass-produced toothpaste was introduced by Colgate in 1873, and it was sold in jars. The tubes that we know today weren't far away though, and Colgate switched to them a few years later in the 1890s. Since then, toothpastes have advanced in leaps and bounds, with the first fluoride products beginning to appear in the early 1900s. 

Today, there are toothpastes of every type imaginable, ranging from basic offerings through to specific flavours and products designed to combat bad breath. There are so many options that it can actually be a bit overwhelming trying to choose what toothpaste to buy. If you're ever in doubt, be sure to ask your dentist's advice at your next regular dental check-up. And don't forget to brush!