The History of Toothpaste

Restorative dentistry treatments can improve your dental health, address dental damage, and stop dental problems from progressing. Although treatments are available to treat dental damage, prevention is key. At-home oral hygiene practices are one of the best ways to prevent dental damage and protect oral health. Toothpaste plays a vital role in our oral hygiene routines. Toothpaste can prevent dental damage, whiten the teeth, and treat dental sensitivity, but where did this oral hygiene staple come from? Discover the history of toothpaste in this overview from Williston, VT dentist Lauren Shanard.


Although many of us think of toothpaste as fairly modern, its roots can be traced back to 5000 BC, in the time of the ancient Egyptians. The ancient Egyptians used a powder of ash, pumice, crushed eggshells, and myrrh to clean their teeth and improve breath. It is believed they used their fingers to rub this powder on their teeth and in their mouths.

Other ancient civilizations used special mixtures to clean their teeth. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans used crushed oyster shells and bones to create abrasive toothpaste. In ancient China, a more palatable mixture of ginseng, herbal mints, and salt were used to clean the teeth.


Before the 1850s, toothpaste came in a powder form. It commonly contained chalk and soap as primary ingredients. It wasn't until 1873 when toothpaste began to take on a more modern appearance. That year, Colgate began mass-producing toothpaste in jars. Almost 20 years later, toothpaste began being sold in tubes, similar to today's packaging.

Toothpaste remained relatively unchanged until 1914, when fluoride was added for it's newfound ability to prevent dental cavities. The next big change in toothpaste occurred in 1945 when soap was finally removed and replaced with sodium lauryl sulphate, which is still used in today's toothpastes.


Modern dentistry has led to incredible improvements in toothpaste. Thanks to advances in toothpaste, we no longer need to rub crushed shells and bones on our teeth to try to keep them clean. Not only are modern toothpastes more effective than the tooth powders of the past, they can enhance the breath and the smile's appearance. Whitening toothpastes are now available to remove years of dental stains for a rejuvenated appearance. There are even toothpastes to help strengthen enamel, reduce sensitivity, and alleviate dry mouth. Advances in flavoring and non-cavity causing sweeteners have allowed for modern toothpastes to taste better than ever before and leave the mouth feeling fresh and clean for hours. 


Toothpaste provides countless benefits, making it an essential part of every oral hygiene routine. Toothpaste helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease by removing more plaque, bacteria, acids, and food debris from the teeth than brushing with a dry brush. Toothpastes can also help remineralize the enamel, further reducing the risk of tooth decay. Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice a day can help your smile in many ways, including:

  • Healthier gums
  • Strengthened teeth
  • Reduced risk of tooth decay
  • Fresher breath
  • Brighter white smile


For more tips on how to maintain a healthy smile, or to discuss your dental care needs, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Shanard.