toothpaste invention

When Was Toothpaste Invented – Comprehensive Answer

In answering the question, ‘when was toothpaste invented’, we need a little background. Prior to the introduction of the commercial toothpaste as we know and use today, humans tried utilising various items to clean their teeth and achieve dental hygiene. Some of the items used include fine sand, salt, charcoal, ground eggshells, ground oyster shells, and tobacco.

when was toothpaste invented
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These crude items were used because abrasion was and has remained the ideology upheld about teeth care. Till date, modern toothpaste contains abrasive components as a result of the earliest principle of teeth cleaning, but in mild forms. 

Before we delve fully into the history of toothpaste and information about its invention, let’s quickly go over the concept and components of toothpaste. 

What Is Toothpaste?

Toothpaste is a substance that is usually in gel, paste or powdered form, used with a toothbrush to clean the teeth and the mouth’s surrounding tissues such as the tongue, cheeks, gum and lips.

Toothpaste is a primary agent used in achieving and maintaining oral hygiene. It helps remove dental plaque, expel bad breath, prevent dental caries (cavities), prevent gum diseases or gingivitis and help repair cavities through the process of secondary remineralization as a result of the presence of fluoride

Toothpaste comes in various colours such as White, Red, Green, and Blue. But most kinds of toothpaste come in white.

Components of Toothpaste 

Every toothpaste contains the same conventional component, but ingredients sometimes vary a little. The following components are the conventional ones a toothpaste must contain to be recognised and used as one:


Abrasive agents are the major components of all kinds of toothpaste, even in the olden days when crude items were used in teeth cleaning. They are responsible for smoothening teeth surfaces.

In a standard toothpaste, abrasives occupy about 33% of the toothpaste. Most abrasive agents are chalk or silica-based. Models of abrasives include dicalcium phosphate, sodium metaphosphate, calcium carbonate, silica, zirconium silicate or calcium pyrophosphate.

Abrasives are an important component of toothpaste because they help in the removal of dental plaque and dental stains through their smoothening ability. The abrasive nature and effect of toothpaste are estimated by their Relative Dentine Abrasivity (RDA) or the Relative Enamel Abrasivity (REA). Dentists and dental caregivers recommend that toothpaste with RDA of 50 and less is optimal for teeth cleaning and preservation of the enamel. 


Detergents form about 1 to 2% of the total components of toothpaste. They are active in foam formation and loosening of dental plaques and other food debris on the teeth surfaces and surrounding mouth structures.

Detergents also help in dispersing the toothpaste all over the mouth; this is known as its ‘Vehicular Action’.  Major examples of detergents are sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium N-lauroyl sarcosinate.


Humectants compose about 10 to 30% of toothpaste. They aid toothpaste in preserving moisture and not dry out or become sticky when exposed to air. Commonly used humectants include Sorbitol, Glycerol, and Propylene Sorbitol. 

Binding Agents

Binding agents compose about 1% of the total toothpaste composition. Binding agents or binders help keep the toothpaste components in a steady state. They prevent the solid and liquid components of the toothpaste from separating from each other after being produced and stored. Examples of binders are Xanthan gums, Alginates, Carrageenan, Cellulose and Sodium carboxy-methyl cellulose. 

Fluoride and Other Curative Agents

Toothpaste contains not just fluoride but other curative agents which are antibacterial, to fight against dental plaque, tartar, dental caries and gum disease/gingivitis. 

The addition of these antibacterial agents is done to assist individuals to improve their oral hygiene and plaque control. 

Some pastes offer specialised effect through the inclusion of special agents during production. These special agents may target specific deposits as tartar or plaque; hence they may be called TarTar control toothpaste. Some others may be made to heal sensitive teeth such as desensitizing toothpaste; they function to desensitise sensitive teeth.

Video: Does Fluoride Prevent Tooth Decay?

Almost every toothpaste you know contains fluoride. But what does it do and how well does it work against tooth decay? Watch this video.

Flavouring and Colouring Agents

To encourage the use of toothpaste, most are made to come in various colours and flavours. The most used flavouring agents are spearmint, peppermint, cinnamon, menthol and wintergreen. Unflavoured toothpaste exists as well. 

Flavouring and colouring agents make up 1-5% of the total composition of toothpaste. 


Just like any other inorganic product, toothpaste is preserved from bacterial growth. Common preservatives used in toothpaste are Alcohol, benzoates, formaldehyde and dechlorinated phenols. Preservatives make up 0.05-0.5% of toothpaste composition. 

History of Toothpaste

According to information suggested by historians, toothpaste was initially produced and used by the ancient Egyptians as early as 3000-5000 BC. The Egyptians produced a ‘dental cream’ which comprised fine ashes from oxen hooves, myrrh, eggshells, pumice, and water.

Some texts had it that the initial toothpaste made by the Egyptians was in powder form but later through civilisation was converted to cream by the addition of water. At the time, flavouring wasn’t an essential component of toothpaste as the Egyptians were more concerned with the maintenance of oral hygiene. 

Later, the ancient Greeks and Romans came up with a more abrasive toothpaste which was in powder form. The Greeks and Romans made their toothpaste with items as oyster shells and crushed bones. These items improved its abrasiveness, yet it had no pleasant flavour just like the Egyptians’ dental cream. 

Around the ninth century, the Chinese came up with improved toothpaste. Their toothpaste had flavouring agents such as Salts, Herbal Mints and Ginseng.

From the 18th century, there was an improvement in the production of toothpaste into what we now know and use as modern toothpaste.  Toothpaste then started containing soaps, betel nuts, chalks and ground charcoal. The pastes were all in powder form until early 1850 when the first gel-like toothpaste Crème Dentifrice was produced by an American Dentist, Dr.Peabody in 1824. He was the first person to add soap to toothpaste.

By 1873, Colgate began mass-producing toothpaste in jars. They progressed from the use of jars to packaging toothpaste in collapsible tubes, like the toothpaste tubes we have today, in 1890 and going forward.

After 1945, toothpaste no longer contained soaps but instead contained detergents like sodium lauryl sulphate, which aid in foaming and cleansing. Around the middle of the nineteenth century, Willoughby D. Miller and Newell Sill Jenkins started producing toothpaste containing disinfectant. They named it Kolynos. This was an attempt to prevent oral diseases after World War 1. In 1914 fluoride-containing toothpaste was introduced, to inhibit tooth decay. 

When Was Tooth Paste Invented?

Toothpaste, as we now know and use, was invented in 1950 by Roy Cross, and approved by the American Dental Association (ADA) on August 1st, 1960. Proctor & Gamble took up the research from where Roy stopped, to prove clinically that fluoride toothpaste could prevent tooth decay.

In 1955, they concluded the research, after proving the efficacy of fluoride toothpaste. On the 1st Day of August 1960, the American Dental Association approved the distribution and usage of their fluoride-containing toothpaste CREST. CREST was marketed as an anti-cavity toothpaste. 

In 1980, a Japan-based company introduced a remineralizing toothpaste called APADENT, which is the world’s pilot remineralizing toothpaste that uses hydroxyapatite, the primary component of tooth enamel. Rather than fluoride, they used hydroxyapatite to remineralize parts of the tooth enamel surface that has low minerals as a result of incipient caries. 

The hydroxyapatite was endorsed as an effective anti-caries ingredient by the Ministry of Health in Japan, in 1993 and was named Medical Hydroxyapatite to differentiate it from other hydroxyapatite forms put in toothpaste.

In conjunction with these improvements, pastes with very low abrasive agents were also produced to prevent complications posed by mechanical teeth brushing. They also were produced to help prevent and treat peculiar ailments such as tooth sensitivity, and bad breath. 

When Was Toothpaste Invented – Types of Toothpaste

Whitening Toothpaste

Whitening toothpaste contains hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide; agents similar to those found in tooth bleaching gels. The numerous whitening pastes claim that they possess some bleaching power whereas it is the abrasive agents in them, not the peroxide, that expel the stains. 

Whitening toothpaste can’t modify the normal shade of teeth or prevent stains from penetrating teeth surface. To expel surface stains, whitening toothpaste may incorporate abrasives to delicately clean the teeth. For example, sodium tripolyphosphate can separate or break down stains. 

To achieve whiteness using a whitening toothpaste, individuals must use the paste two times every day. Whitening toothpaste usually takes about 4weeks to cause teeth to seem whiter.

Herbal and Natural Toothpaste

Individuals who do not want to use pastes that have inorganic ingredients opt for herbal toothpaste. Most herbal pastes do not have fluoride nor sodium lauryl sulphate as ingredients. Instead, they contain baking soda, aloe, eucalyptus oil, myrrh, plant extract (strawberry extract), and essential oils. 

In recent times, charcoal has been added as a component to herbal toothpaste. However, there exists no empirical evidence as to whether it’s safe or effective in teeth cleaning and remineralization.

Striped Toothpaste

toothpaste invention
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Striped toothpaste contains similar components as the regular pastes. The only difference is in the colours used as stripes. Striped toothpaste appeared in the market around 1955. It was marketed by the Unilever company in 1960 and was later joined by Colgate. Striped toothpaste is sometimes thought to be layered toothpaste, but they are not the same.

Today, there are several brands of toothpaste in the market. People usually ask what brand is the best and the answer is that there is no better brand of toothpaste. Any type of toothpaste that contains the basic ingredient as fluoride and other components such as herbal ingredients and desensitising agents is good for you.

If you are not allergic to any of the ingredients used, it would do a great job for your oral health. Remember to brush your teeth twice a day, for at least 2 minutes, to ensure you have optimum oral hygiene.

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