History of Toothpaste

Posted Mar 2019

By Delta Dental of Arkansas

Tagged tube, pumice, whitening, fluoride, chalk, burnt bread, toothpaste

Share this post

History of Toothpaste

Revised October 2021


Tonight, when you’re flossing and brushing your teeth, consider yourself lucky: You get to use mint- or cinnamon-flavored toothpaste. In the past, people concocted some gunk made from oxen hooves or sand.

When was toothpaste invented?

Our modern oral hygiene with toothpaste, toothbrush and floss began only in the 1950s, not very long ago. But the quest for a clean mouth dates back at least 5,000 years.

Around 3,000 BC, the ancient Egyptians developed a dental paste made of oxen hooves, myrrh, eggshells, pumice and water. Talk about legacy: A pumice mixture is still used today by dentists and dental hygienists to professionally clean and polish your teeth. 

The early Chinese were said to apply ground fish bones to their teeth for the same purpose, and the ancient Romans and Greeks allegedly used crushed bones and oyster shells. Arabs evidently tried fine sand during the Middle Ages, and the Europeans experimented with table salt. It all sounds quite tough on the tooth enamel

It wasn’t until the late 1700s that the first modern toothpaste appeared, usually homemade. Some used burnt bread among the ingredients or dragon’s blood, a natural, dark red plant resin.

Who invented toothpaste?

In 1824, a dentist named Peabody (first name unknown) was the first person to add soap to dental paste, followed by John Harris in the 1850s, who added chalk as an ingredient. About 20 years later, Colgate mass-produced the first toothpaste in a jar.

A landmark change occurred in 1892. Dr. Washington Sheffield, an American dentist, thought it unsanitary for multiple people to dip their toothbrushes into one jar of toothpaste. So that year, he developed the first toothpaste in a collapsible tube. Paint tubes used by artists supposedly inspired him.

Significant improvements followed after World War II:

  • Advancements in synthetic detergents allowed manufacturers to replace the soap used in toothpaste with emulsifying agents that worked better.
  • Fluoride was added 
  • The first striped toothpaste was invented.
  • Whitening agents to brighten teeth were first introduced in the mid-1980s.


What type of toothpaste should you use?

Toothpaste today contains water and three main ingredients: abrasives, fluoride and detergents. Many different brands and flavors offer plenty of choices. Do select a toothpaste with the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. And brush correctly.

How to keep smiling

At Delta Dental of Arkansas, it is our mission to improve the oral health of all Arkansans. Sign up for our monthly Chatter for bite-sized know-how on how to keep your teeth, gums and smiles healthy.

If you are looking for a dentist in your area, check out our easy online tool. 

And if you’re interested in individual, family or group coverage, sign up for one of our plans with access to Arkansas’s largest network of providers and a variety of benefits.

{{ showingText }} {{ showingTagName }}



Posted by Delta Dental of Arkansas



Posted by Delta Dental of Arkansas

There are not results to show