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
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
The 18th Century
- 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 earliest record of an actual toothpaste was
in 1780 and included scrubbing the teeth with a
formula containing burnt bread. (A common North
Other toothpastes around this time called for:
Beat the above ingredients together and use
every second day.
- 1 1/2 oz. dragons blood (So that's where
they all went!!)
- 1 1/2 oz. cinnamon
- 1 oz. burnt alum
The 19th Century
The 20th 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
- 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:
1 oz. myrrh (fine powder)
2 spoonfuls of your best honey (This does
not refer to your significant other!!)
A pinch of green sage
Mix together and use every night on wet
- Another toothpaste included:
2 oz. cuttlefish bone
1 oz. cream of tartar
2 drachms drop lake
15 drops clover oil
Powder, mix, sift.
So....what's in the toothpaste of the 90s?
- 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.
Hey, didn't we see these ingredients in the
toothpastes of the early 19th century?
- sodium monofluorophosphate (not to be
confused with MSG)
- foaming agents
- humectants (prevent the paste from
- 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:
plant extract (strawberry extract)
special oils and cleansing agents
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.
The more things change, the more they stay
Egyptian recipe for toothpaste
The world's oldest-known
formula for toothpaste, used more than 1,500
years before Colgate began marketing the first
commercial brand in 1873, has been discovered on
a piece of dusty papyrus in the basement of a
In faded black ink made of soot
and gum arabic mixed with water, an ancient
Egyptian scribe has carefully described what he
calls a "powder for white and perfect teeth".
When mixed with saliva in the
mouth, it forms a "clean tooth paste".
According to the document,
written in the fourth century AD, the
ingredients needed for the perfect smile are one
drachma of rock salt - a measure equal to one
hundredth of an ounce - two drachmas of mint,
one drachma of dried iris flower and 20 grains
of pepper, all of them crushed and mixed
The result is a pungent paste
which one Austrian dentist who tried it said
made his gums bleed but was a "big improvement"
on some toothpaste formulae used as recently as
a century ago.