How Toothpaste Has Evolved: From Ancient Greece to Modern Times

October 25, 2022

Today, we associate toothpaste with tubes of minty gel. But it should be no surprise that toothpaste has evolved over the years. Humans have been using toothpaste for longer than most people realize, with even the ancient Egyptians using it. So next time Dr. Dhiraj Sharma reminds you to brush your teeth, take his advice to heart. The recommendation is based on thousands of years of human history and modern science.

Early Egyptian Toothpaste

While humans could have used toothpaste before the Egyptians, there isn’t any evidence. The earliest recorded formula is from 4 A.D., but experts believe Egyptians used toothpaste as long ago as 5,000 B.C. Experts believe this earliest toothpaste was from myrrh, oxen hooves, water, pumice, and eggshells.

What was in that earliest recorded formula? It’s a combination of pepper, iris flowers, mint, and crushed rock salt. This was surprisingly effective, even if it was a bit irritating, potentially causing gums to bleed.

Other Early Toothpaste Ingredients

Some early forms of toothpaste featured mint and crushed rock salt. Greeks and Romans used combinations with oyster shells and crushed bones. Chinese cultures used herbal mints, salt, and ginseng.

Throughout the years, other toothpaste ingredients have included pulverized charcoal, chalk, ashes, burnt eggshells, brick dust, pumice, and ox hooves. Evidence from 1780 shows people used burnt breadcrumbs.

In 1824, Dr. Peabody, a dentist, used soap and abrasive ingredients. This combination maximized cleaning powder. Eventually, sodium lauryl sulfate replaced the soap, improving consistency. Many modern kinds of toothpaste still use that ingredient.

In the 1850s, chalk was a popular ingredient in toothpaste. It remained popular for decades.

More Recent Toothpaste Advances

When it comes to commercially-produced toothpaste, you may be surprised to learn that Colgate first produced it in 1873. The company sold it in small glass jars. This was the first mass-produced good-smelling and smooth toothpaste.

In 1892, the glass jars began being replaced with collapsible toothpaste tubes. Dr. Washington Sheffield introduced these tubes. 1914 saw the addition of fluoride to toothpaste after research showed it was beneficial.

Do you know how most modern kinds of toothpaste must be spat out, but children’s toothpaste can be swallowed? This edible toothpaste was created in 1987 for NASA astronauts.

When you look at the toothpaste options today, you’ll notice that many say “whitening.” Rembrandt marketed the first whitening toothpaste, launching it in 1989.


Modern toothpaste has come a long way in terms of ingredients and the convenience of tubes. Most modern toothpaste will be a good option for the average person. But if you have any doubts, ask Dr. Dhiraj Sharma for his recommendation during your next dental cleaning in Chicago. Contact our office today!


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