The History of Toothpaste

Did you know that toothpaste throughout history included ingredients such as dried flowers, pepper, burnt bread, and charcoal? It seems strange to say the least, but some of these ingredients actually proved to be somewhat effective in preventing bad breath.

Here is a short chronological list that covers the most interesting ingredients/methods in the history of toothpaste:

Pumice, Burnt eggshells, and more

The earliest known toothpaste concoction was created in ancient Egypt around 5000 BC. Although toothbrushes had not been invented yet, different ingredients were mixed together and applied to keep teeth and gums clean, whiten teeth and freshen breath. The ingredients used in early Egyptian toothpaste are varied. Things such as pumice, burnt eggshells, crushed rock salt, dried iris flowers, and pepper were often used.


Greek and Roman figures also used the Egyptian mixture at around the same time, but they preferred a more abrasive substance and added ingredients such as crushed bones and oyster shells.


Almost 5000 years later, ancient China and India started to make their own mixture. This is one of the first concoctions found that contained mint! In addition to herbal mint, they also added other flavors such as ginseng and salts.


In the late 1700’s people were scrubbing their teeth with a formula that mainly consisted of burnt bread. Although there is no clear origin for where this practice started, it could have been an affordable option for people across the world. Toast, anyone?


We’ve all heard about (or experienced) the infamous punishment of having your mouth washed out with soap. In 1824, Dr. Peabody decided to add soap to the toast mixture to enhance the cleaning power. Goodbye potty mouth!


Eventually chalk was also added to the mixture to create a creamy substance more similar to what we use today.

Toothpaste in jars

Toothpaste eventually was produced and sold. In 1873 Colgate started the mass production of toothpaste in jars.


In the latter half of the 20th century, toothpaste formulas included ingredients to prevent/treat specific diseases and conditions. Fluoride was officially added to toothpaste in 1914 after it was discovered that the ingredient resulted in a significant decrease in dental cavities.

Edible toothpaste

No more charcoal or bones in this recipe! Originally edible toothpaste was invented by NASA so astronauts could brush their teeth without spitting. Now edible toothpaste is a great option for children learning to brush their teeth.


Rembrandt marketed the first whitening toothpaste that was said to “whiten and brighten your smile” in 1989. Many companies followed suit not long after.

Toothpaste today

Anyone who walks down the toothpaste aisle at the store today can clearly see that we have come a long way since burnt eggshells and salt. The options for toothpaste are endless. While all brands typically contain fluoride, coloring, flavoring, and sweetener, individual types can contain special ingredients for special circumstances such as sensitive teeth. To find what types of toothpaste will work best for you and your child, contact Bear Creek Pediatric Dentistry today!

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