Toothpaste was used by people even before the use of the toothbrush became popular. The earliest record of a paste-like solution being used to clean teeth dates back to 5000 BC. The ancient Greeks and Romans both used toothpaste, while the people of China and India adopted toothpaste around 500 BC.

Evolution of Toothpaste

(Pixabay / AlbanyColley)

Toothpaste was used in ancient times in the same way we use it today; it was applied to the teeth and gums to prevent infection and disease. The ingredients of the ancient toothpaste were different from today’s ingredients—and that’s a good thing. It contained powder from the ashes of ox hooves and burnt eggshells combined with pumice. The Greeks and Romans used crushed bones and oyster shells to add more abrasiveness to their toothpaste.

The Romans included flavorings in their toothpaste to improve people’s breath. They also added powdered bark and charcoal. The Chinese included ginseng, salt, and herbal mint as flavorings in their toothpaste.

The development of modern toothpaste began in the 1800s. Early toothpaste contained soap, chalk, and ground charcoal. The English included betel nut in their paste.

During the 1850s, a new style of toothpaste was developed. Prior to this period, toothpaste was mostly powder. A new toothpaste, called Crème Dentifrice, was introduced in the market. This toothpaste, which Colgate started mass producing in 1873, was kept in a jar. In the 1890s, Colgate introduced toothpaste in a tube.

Until 1945, toothpaste contained soap. From that year onward, soap was replaced by other ingredients, which make the paste smooth. Sodium lauryl sulfate was added, an ingredient that is still found in toothpaste.

By the second half of the 20th century, toothpaste was improved to help treat specific oral conditions and diseases, such as tooth sensitivity. Fluoride was added in 1914 to prevent tooth decay.

Today’s toothpaste varieties include ingredients that will help whiten teeth. Triclosan has also been added for extra protection against gum diseases, caries, plaque, and bad breath.

The most important thing that you can do to protect your teeth is to adopt a good dental care routine of brushing twice daily and flossing once daily. See your dentist or periodontist for specific questions about your oral health.