The modern history of toothpaste began in 1892. That was the year Dr. Washington Sheffield of the USA invented the collapsible tube for storing toothpaste. Four years later in 1896, Colgate began making its own brand.
The Early Toothpastes
The earliest known reference to any mixture for cleaning teeth comes from a 4th century AD Egyptian manuscript. The ingredients included flowers that would be crushed together. Exactly how this was used is unclear.
But it is known that the Greeks and Romans used some form of toothpaste. Among the ingredients they used were animal bones and oyster shells.
The history of toothpaste also shows that it was available in 9th century Persia. A musician named Ziryab invented a mixture similar to toothpaste. The exact ingredients are still unknown. However it became very popular, especially in Spain.
To this day, it’s still uncertain as to how these toothpastes were used. Some Native Americans used neem tree twigs as a toothbrush. Whether these twigs were used by the ancient Europeans is still undetermined. Some historians assert that the early toothpastes were rubbed on the teeth using cloth.
During the 19th century, tooth powders became popular in the UK. They were made from salt or chalk. A look at the history of toothpaste indicates that even charcoal were used as tooth powder.
However there were other toothpaste formulas used. Some manuscripts show toothpastes in 18th century America were made from burnt bread. Other toothpastes included resin, alum and cinnamon. Quite possibly an assortment of herbs were employed as well.
The Modern Toothpaste Appears
In 1900 toothpaste consisting of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda started to be manufactured. However it was not until the outbreak of World War I that Sheffield’s invention became popular. As the collapsible toothpaste tube became widespread, fluoride eventually became part of the ingredients.
An examination of the history of toothpaste shows that this move was frowned upon by the American Dental Association in 1937. However by the 1950s, fluoride toothpastes had gained wide acceptance. The first toothpaste with fluoride that was proven medically safe was Crest by Proctor and Gamble. This toothpaste came out in 1955.
This was eventually followed by other types and brands. Today there are several dozen brands available in the United States. There are also many different manufacturers around the world today.
Common Toothpaste Ingredients
Fluoride is the most common, but there are other elements in toothpaste. Some might contain sodium monofluorophosphate and calcium phosphate. Others might contain sodium lauryl sulfate and other types of sulfate. There are also other ingredients mixed in.
The primary use of toothpaste is to prevent cavities. However as toothpastes evolved, they were designed to whiten teeth and also give fresh breath. Toothpastes also now come in various flavors, including fruits and mint.
The history of toothpastes has not been without controversy with some critics asserting it doesn’t clean teeth as well as claimed. But in most modern societies, the toothpaste has become a part of their personal hygiene.