The History of Toothpaste

oraganic ingredients for brushing

Fun fact, did you happen to know that dental floss used to be made of silk thread? Did you also know that old toothbrushes back in the day used to be made of bone and horsehair? It seems crazy, but oral health care has definitely come a long way and has had a long and interesting history that dates back to ancient cultures. Over time, there has been a large number of tools and ingredients that have been created to help carve the path that is now modern dentistry. Would you like to learn about the origins of toothpaste? We will explain how it has evolved into the product that we know today!

Ancient Egypt (5000 – 3000 BC)

Many surprising discoveries have come from ancient Egypt. Along with many great tools, toothpaste actually originated from them. The wealthy of ancient Egypt heavily valued cleanliness. Due to this, oral health became a priority for them, so they started experimenting with versions of toothpaste. Toothpaste for them was a mixture of dried iris flowers, rock salt, pepper, and mint crushed into a paste. Once the paste was created, it was then mixed with water. Other versions of toothpaste they created included mixing in burnt eggshells or ox hoof ashes. These kinds of toothpaste were not gentle on the gums and caused bleeding, but it was successful at cleaning teeth.

Ancient Greece and Rome

In ancient Greece and Rome, people caught wind of the toothpaste mixture that Egyptians were using and then began experimenting with their own versions. Grecians and Romans had added more abrasives to their toothpaste concoctions, including cleaning powder, crushed bones, and even oyster shells. Romans had gotten crafty and added charcoal to their pastes in order to help freshen their breath. Word had made it to China and India in around 500 BC, and they added ingredients to their mixtures like herbal mints, salts, and ginseng. These ingredients were used to add more flavoring. 

Use of Toast in the 1700s

Over time, the upper classes had used and perfected their own mixtures of toothpaste. It remained extremely popular! In the 1700s, people again got crafty and decided to see how toast would do as a cleaning substance for teeth. Toast was then introduced and was ground up into a powder. People would then proceed to scrub their teeth with the ground up toast. Using toast was very affordable for lower-class people, and there is not a way to tell the origin of when toast was first used as a cleaning substance for teeth. 

Use of Soap and Chalks in 1824

Mixtures of toothpaste did not ever stop changing. In 1824, there was a Dentist named Dr. Peabody, who thought of a new substance to add to the mix. He took the ground up toast mixture that people were using and added soap to it in order to enhance the cleanliness of the paste. After some decades, toothpaste makers added chalk to the mixtures. The chalk created pastes that had a creamy consistency versus a rough one. 

Toothpaste Production in 1873

A common household item found in bathrooms all over the country its toothpaste. People considered toothpaste a necessity. Therefore, Colgate had begun producing toothpaste on a vast scale in 1873. These kinds of toothpaste were distributed to people in jars instead of the tubes that we are currently familiar with. Around twenty years later, in 1892, toothpaste was put into a collapsible tube by Dr. Washington Sheffield. This tube was similar to the ones we know today. It was such a favorable container for people that Colgate began distributing their toothpaste in those collapsible tubes that year in 1892. 

Introduction of Fluoride in 1914

1914 was the year that people discovered that fluoride was beneficial to teeth! Fluoride significantly decreases dental cavities. Once this was discovered, it was immediately added to toothpaste, which lead to better cleaning results for people’s teeth. Soap was also removed from toothpaste around the 1940s and was replaced by lauryl sulphate (a foaming agent) and fluoride. 

Safe and Edible Toothpaste in 1987

When humans ventured into space, it was still essential to keep their teeth clean. Astronauts needed a way to clean their teeth while in space, so NASA was able to invent an edible toothpaste to help with that issue. This toothpaste was used like regular toothpaste but then brushing could be swallowed. Not long after, people realized that this toothpaste was a perfect way to get children to brush! Children tend to eat or swallow their toothpaste, and this new edible toothpaste did not risk the child’s health if they ingested it. Edible toothpaste was then repurposed toward children’s usage. 

Whitening Toothpaste in 1989

It may have seemed that toothpaste was perfect by now, but there could always be changes. In 1989, the toothpaste company Rembrandt created and marketed the first toothpaste that could whiten teeth over time. Other toothpaste producers caught on to the idea, and now some for the most popular toothpaste that people have in their households are teeth whitening ones. 

Current Toothpaste

Toothpaste has made it far from ginseng mixtures and even crushed oysters. Currently, there are numerous types of toothpaste that you can buy and have a variety of end-goals. On the plus side, they all still clean your teeth! Navigating the toothpaste market can be a bit difficult, but we’re here to help. Schedule an appointment with your pediatric dentist here at Kids Healthy Teeth to discuss the type of toothpaste that will work best for your child, and what would work best for our entire family.


The history of toothpaste is bizarre for us now. We don’t know if people could even imagine using ox hove ashes to clean their teeth. We have come a very long way from ancient mixtures and ingredients. We have been able to create countless different types of toothpaste that serve different purposes like teeth whitening and enamel protecting. We hope you enjoyed learning the history of toothpaste. If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call. If you would like to book your next appointment and find more information regarding our services, you can visit our Kids Healthy Teeth website