• 9636 Bartlett Circle, Fort Worth, TX 76108

What Did People Do Before Toothpaste?

Home » Dental Blog » Miscellaneous » What Did People Do Before Toothpaste?

tube of toothpaste and toothbrush

There’s no doubt that Americans love their toothpaste: We consume an estimated 14 billion gallons per year! With its plaque and cavity-fighting properties, whitening capabilities, and array of breath-freshening flavors, it’s hard to imagine dental care without toothpaste, which was invented in the nineteenth century. So what did people use to clean their teeth before then?


Many ancient cultures used chewing sticks and twigs as a way to clean and pick their teeth without toothpaste. The ancient Chinese even developed toothbrushes made with hog and horsehair to maintain their dental health.


Early toothpastes came in the form of powders that were likely rubbed directly onto the teeth or with the help of rags. While we enjoy our toothpastes in the form of minty gels, ancient cultures had much less appealing ingredients in their toothpastes. The Romans and the Greeks, for example, relied on pulverized bones, oyster shells, and eggshells to preserve their pearly whites. Different cultures used a variety of flavorings to make their concoctions more appealing and help prevent bad breath, such as charcoal, ginseng, and salt. Toothpowders made of ingredients like brick and chalk were used with toothbrushes in nineteenth century England.

The Beginnings of Modern Toothpaste

The early version of toothpaste as we know it was developed in the late nineteenth century, but it didn’t gain popularity over toothpowders right away. The first toothpaste brand to put its product into tubes was Kolynos, which hit shelves in 1908 and paved the way for modern toothpastes. Fluoride, which helps combat tooth decay, became a popular toothpaste ingredient just a few years later. After that, more varieties of toothpastes were developed in order to address specific dental health issues. Today, more and more toothpastes are designed to improve whitening in addition to preventing tooth decay.

After learning more about life before the invention of toothpaste, it feels so much easier now to maintain your dental health at home by brushing your teeth at least twice per day. For optimal results, be sure to schedule professional cleanings every six months. We offer Ultra Sonic cleanings that go beyond where brushing and flossing do, leaving you with a brighter, healthier smile. Give us a call at 817-402-2401 to schedule an appointment today!

Request Appointment