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History of Hygiene
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Toothpaste

A brief history of…TOOTHPASTE

3000 BC: The first “tooth powder”? Some sources report that Egyptians used tooth powder containing powdered ashes of ox hooves, myrrh, powdered burnt egg shells and pumice. Ancient Egyptians also freshened their breath by chewing on fragrant mixtures with honey.

AD 47: More early “toothpowders” and “toothpastes”. “Compositiones Medicamentorum”, the work of Roman physician Scribonius Largus, describes three different "toothpowder” mixtures, one containing vinegar, honey and salt; another with radish and finely ground glass; and a third using ground deer antler, a rare aromatic gum and rock salt.

Other reported toothpowder ingredients include saponin, a naturally occurring soap-like substance (China); burnt snail shells, burnt gypsum, dried animal parts and herbs (Persia), and chalk (England). A teeth-strengthening recipe included green lead (Persia).

Question   How would you feel about…

  • Alternative cures for toothache?
    • Extracting the tooth using pliars, but no anaesthetic (pre-1950s)
    • Using an iron nail to cut your gums until they bleed (17th C, England)
    • Kissing a donkey’s teeth! (Middle Ages, Germany)
  • Patented dental treatments containing acids, abrasives, alcohol and morphine? (1860s-1900s)

Lightbulb  Toothpaste development

1824: A soap-containing toothpaste was introduced by Dr Peabody, a dentist.

1880s:  Toothpaste was mass produced in jars (USA), based on Dr Sheffield’s "Crème Dentifrice” invention of 1850.

1890s: Toothpaste was sold in collapsible tubes.

1914: Fluoride was added to toothpaste to prevent decay, but not approved by the American Dental Association until the 1950s.

1945: Soap was replaced by other ingredients following the invention of synthetic detergents, making toothpastes smoother.

Today, many innovations have produced toothpastes to combat tartar, gum disease and plaque, for teeth whitening, for fresh breath and for sensitive teeth. There are also toothpastes designed specifically for children and infants.

Sources:


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