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Who invented toothpaste? | A history of the teeth cleansing tube

Nearly every person in America has the same morning routine. You get up, you brush your teeth, then you head out to work. Toothpaste is such a necessity in oral health that it can be hard to imagine life without it.

Nowadays, there is an incredible variety of brands and types of toothpaste available. Quick! Name 3 of them. I bet you came up with a list of 5 or more. When you go to the store for toothpaste, it can be hard to chose the brand, size, and features you want. It’s almost like picking out a new car — there are so many souped-up options to choose from.

So how did toothpaste become such an integral part of our oral hygiene? To answer that question, let’s take a closer look at its history and the story of its origin.

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Who invented toothpaste? 

It is believed that toothpaste was introduced some time in the 9th Century by Ziryab, an Iraqi fashion designer and musician. While data isn’t available regarding what this paste contained, it was popularly used throughout Spain. Reports from this time stated that the toothpaste had a good taste and cleaned the teeth pretty well.

Toothpaste was not widely used until the introduction of Crème Dentifrice — toothpaste in a jar. Washington Sheffield, an American dental surgeon, developed it in the 1850’s. His formula was quite popular and led to widespread sales.

By 1873, mass production of this toothpaste was undertaken by Colgate. However, it wasn’t until the 1890’s that toothpaste became available in tube form. The easy-to-use tube boosted the popularity of toothpaste on a global level.

What were the original ingredients of toothpaste? 

Many types of toothpaste in the paste were made from a lot of abrasive, raw materials. Various outlandish recipes showcase this factor. In 5000 BC, toothpaste was said to be made from a rough paste containing crushed charcoal, crushed oyster shells and bones. In the 18th Century, one recipe for toothpaste made use of burnt bread whereas another used resin, burnt alum and cinnamon. By the 19th century, the recipe for toothpaste had been simplified to address different ailments. Toothpaste with fluoride was introduced in the 1890’s.

In the 1900’s another toothpaste recipe was introduced that contained baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Many types of toothpaste also contained soap and other harmful chemicals that were not monitored for their side effects or for the damage they caused.

It wasn’t until 1955 that Procter and Gamble launched the first-ever, clinically tested and approved fluoride toothpaste in the form of Crest. Other businesses soon followed suit and started to place emphasis on researching the results before putting the product on the market.

The good news is that modern day toothpaste doesn’t contain soap and other strong disinfectants now. In 1872, soap was added to the recipe in order to make the toothpaste a more effective cleanser. It wasn’t until 1945 that toothpaste recipes stopped using soap as a core component. Yet a major problem arose — people had become accustomed to the foaming toothpaste.

Previously, the foam — caused by soap — had been advertised as a sign that the toothpaste was “working”. To avoid losing their customers, many companies started using sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) to make the paste foam. However, there are no discernible benefits of SLS. It is often linked to hormonal problems in the body and being too abrasive for sensitive gums.

Another modern change to the toothpaste recipe was the removal of extremely abrasive ingredients. This made the paste less likely to wear away healthy gums and enamel.

What is organic toothpaste? 

When toothpaste was gaining popularity, people were reluctant to move from their old recipes made of organic and herbal ingredients. Large commercial companies easily promoted chemical-filled toothpastes. They were able to create a cheap product that people would buy, ignoring what the chemicals could do to the body.

In 1975, the first herbal toothpaste was introduced that did not contain any harmful materials. The recipe of the paste did not contain any harsh chemicals such as fluoride. Instead, it contained healthy plant-based ingredients like myrrh and peppermint oil.

These natural ingredients helped to keep teeth clean and gums healthy. They also kept breath smelling fresh.

Edible toothpaste was introduced in 1987 for kids who were learning to brush their teeth and wouldn’t always spit properly. Interestingly, the quest for edible toothpaste was kick-started by NASA. They needed toothpaste their astronauts could use without having to spit in zero-gravity.

In recent decades, more research has gone into the proper development of toothpaste. Yet organic toothpaste still remains a better alternative. It doesn’t contain potentially harmful ingredients. It’s made to promote good oral health by cleaning your teeth, gums, tongue and other soft tissues.

Many chemicals in modern-day toothpaste are also harmful to the body in large quantities — whether too much is swallowed or it builds up in the body over time. These include fluoride and SLS, which are found in nearly every popular, mass-produced toothpaste.

If you feel like skipping the chemicals and trying something new, opt for organic toothpaste or tooth powder. With all-natural ingredients, no harmful additives and even the ability to re-mineralize your enamel, these are going to be the best option for your teeth.

Come back next week to learn about the history of tooth powder and why it’s now becoming more and more popular

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