Toothpaste Basics and Commonly Available Options
Toothpaste or dentifrice refers to a substance, such as a paste, gel or powder, used for cleaning and polishing teeth. Dentifrice is the most commonly used consumer product for maintaining the aesthetics and health of teeth in children and adults (1, 4). It has multiple functions, including removing plaque, limiting halitosis and applying fluoride to the tooth structure.
Certain active ingredients in toothpaste also impede tooth disease and gingivitis (1, 4). Used in conjunction with a toothbrush, toothpaste enhances the mechanics of brushing, cleaning and polishing with a toothbrush and enables it to reach accessible teeth surfaces (1, 4).
The History of Toothpaste
Research suggests the ancient Egyptians began using toothpaste for oral hygiene around 5000 BC. At nearly the same time, Roman and Greek residents started using toothpaste. Around 500 BC, the populace occupying the regions of India and China also gravitated to the practice of using dentifrice. Like modern humankind, these people used the earliest forms of toothpastes for cleaning their teeth and gums, and eliminating halitosis.
The ingredients in early toothpastes differ from culture to culture. The Egyptians used a combination of ingredients, including burnt eggshells, ox hooves’ ashes and water. Various powdered mixtures prevailed up to the early 1800s. The modern era of toothpastes began when soap was added to the product, giving it a paste form.
In the 1850s, consumers could buy toothpaste packaged in jars; Colgate started this method of packaging its product in 1873. In the 1890s, Colgate transitioned to selling toothpaste in tin/lead tubes– similar to the toothpaste dispensers used today.
In 1914, manufacturers started adding fluoride to toothpaste. During World War II, a shortage of lead/tin, and leakage of the metal alloy into toothpaste, caused a switch to plastic tubes. Soap remained an ingredient in toothpaste up to 1945. Subsequently, it was replaced with sodium lauryl sulfate.