Toothpaste Trivia

Ever wonder where toothpaste and mouthwash came from? Have you ever thought about what people used for toothpaste before the invention of Crest, Colgate or Aquafresh? (North American brand name toothpastes). Below are some interesting, point form facts and recipes that may help satisfy your curiosity - or spur it on!! Our own thoughts or side comments are added in printing like this.

Back in the Days of Buddha....

  • The activity of keeping the mouth clean dates all the way back to the religious figure Buddha. It has been recorded that he would use a "tooth stick" from the God Sakka as part of his personal hygiene regimen.

  • In 23 - 79 AD the practice of oral hygiene included:

  • Drinking goats milk for sweet breath

  • Ashes from burnt mice heads, rabbits heads, wolves heads, ox heels and goats feet were thought to benefit the gums. (This probably wouldn't go over very well today)

  • Picking the bones out of wolves excrement and wearing them (maybe in the form of a necklace?) was considered to be a form of protection against toothaches.

  • Washing your teeth with the blood from a tortoise three times a year was a sure bet against toothaches as well.

  • Mouthwashes were known to consist of pure white wine, or (get ready for this one) old urine kept especially for this purpose


The 18th Century

  • The earliest record of an actual toothpaste was in 1780 and included scrubbing the teeth with a formula containing burnt bread. (A common North American breakfast)

  • Other toothpastes around this time called for:

1 1/2 oz. dragons blood (So that's where they all went!!)
1 1/2 oz. cinnamon
1 oz. burnt alum

Beat the above ingredients together and use every second day.

The 19th Century

  • In the 19th century, charcoal became very popular for teeth cleaning purposes.

  • Most toothpastes at this time were in the form of a powder.

  • The purpose of the tooth powder was not only to clean the teeth, but to give fresh breath. (Hmmm....that idea isn't so outdated!!)

  • The succulent strawberry (still available today) was considered to be a "natural" solution for preventing tartar and giving fresh breath.

  • In 1855, the Farmers Almanac included this recipe for an appropriate toothpaste:A pinch of green sage

1 oz. myrrh (fine powder)
2 spoonfuls of your best honey (This does not refer to your significant other!!)

Mix together and use every night on wet teeth.

  • Another toothpaste included:

2 oz. cuttlefish bone
1 oz. cream of tartar
2 drachms drop lake
15 drops clover oil

Powder, mix, sift


The 20th Century

  • Liquid cleansers (mouth rinses) and pastes became more popular, often containing chlorophyll to give a fresh green color.

  • Bleeding gums became a concern as well as aching teeth.

  • In 1915 leaves from certain trees in South East Asia (Eucalyptus) were beginning to be used in mouthwash formulas


So....what's in the toothpaste of the 2000's and beyond ?

  • sodium monofluorophosphate (not to be confused with MSG)

  • color

  • flavoring

  • fluoride

  • foaming agents

  • detergents

  • humectants (prevent the paste from hardening)

  • Herbal toothpastes have gained popularity for people looking for a "natural" toothpaste or for those who don't want fluoride in their dental cleansers. Some herbal toothpastes contain:

  • peppermint oil

  • myrrh

  • plant extract (strawberry extract)

  • special oils and cleansing agents

Hey, didn't we see these ingredients in the toothpastes of the early 19th century?

And the 21st Century....

Your guess is as good as ours!! If the trends of the 20th century continue we should see more toothpastes that whiten and brighten the teeth, are canker sore friendly, and give you the ultimate brushing or rinsing experience. Let us know if you have any thoughts on what a toothpaste or mouthwash should be able to do for you.

The more things change, the more they stay the same!

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