Home Dentistry Articles Toothpaste
Toothpaste is a paste used to clean teeth, almost
always in conjunction with a toothbrush.
The earliest known reference to a toothpaste
is in a manuscript from Egypt in the 4th century A.D.,
which prescribes a mixture of powdered salt, pepper,
mint leaves, and iris flowers. Many early toothpaste
formulations were based on urine. However, toothpastes
or powders did not come into general use until the 19th
In the early 19th century, the toothbrush was
usually used only with water, but tooth powders soon gained
popularity. Most were home made, with chalk, pulverized brick,
and salt being common ingredients. An 1866 Home Cyclopedia recommended
pulverized charcoal, and cautioned that many patented tooth
powders then commercially marketed did more harm than good.
By 1900, baking soda made into a paste by adding
a small amount of hydrogen peroxide solution was recommended.
Pre-mixed toothpastes were first marketed in the 19th century,
but did not surpass the popularity of tooth-powder until about
the time of the World War I. In New York City in 1896, Colgate
& Company, as they were known, manufactured toothpaste in
the first collapsible tube, similar to the tubes that had been
recently introduced for artist's oil colors.
Fluoride started to be added to toothpastes
in the 1950s. Different countries have slightly different suggestions
and limits in regards to the amount of the chemical to be added
into the product. For example, much of Africa has a slightly
higher percent than the US.
Like many shampoos, healthier ingredients (such
as baking soda, pseudo-mouthwash etc) are often combined into
base mixes of varying qualities and marketed as being beneficial.
Toothpaste is most commonly sold in flexible
tubes, although one may also purchase it in harder containers.
Packages designed to stand straight up, so as to allow more
of the toothpaste to be used and to save shelf space, are a
relatively recent innovation.
Toothpaste comes in a variety of flavors, most
often being some variation on mint (spearmint, peppermint, regular
mint etc). Other more exotic flavors include: anise, apricot,
bubblegum (marketed mostly to children), cinnamon, fennel, ginger,
lemon, orange (fruit), even unflavored.
Toothpaste is intended to be spit out. Some
types of toothpaste may cause nausea or diarrhea if swallowed
in sufficient quantity. This is why children of a young age
should not use it, or use it only under close supervision.
Sodium fluoride (NaF) is the most popular active
ingredient in toothpaste to prevent cavities; some brands use
sodium monofluorophosphate (SMFP). Nearly all toothpaste sold
in the United States has 1000 to 1100 parts per million of one
of these active ingredients. This consistency leads some to
conclude that cheap toothpaste is just as good as expensive
toothpaste. When the magazine Consumer Reports rated toothpastes
in 1998, 30 of the 38 were judged excellent.