Toothpaste, as it is known today, dates back to approximately 5000BC when Egyptians started to use pastes and powders to clean their teeth. The main goals of ancient toothpaste are similar to today, including, fresh breath, healthy gums, and a white smile. However, the ingredients of these old pastes did vary to what most people find today. Ancient toothpaste included ox hooves, pumice, and even sometimes burnt eggshells. These ingredients ranged from one continent to the next and are all equally disturbing.
Modern Toothpaste Additives
More modern components did not begin to arrive in toothpaste until the early 1800s. This was the period when additives were introduced. An additive is simply defined as a substance added to something in small quantities. During the 1800s, “toothpaste” was usually actually powdered, and the additive they carried would most likely be chalk, betel nut, or even charcoal. These ingredients were chosen solely for their abrasiveness, which was a useful quality when one was attempting to scrub their teeth in those days when dentists would rather pull all of the patient’s teeth and replace them with dentures than try to fix their original set of pearly whites.
Though these abrasive additives proved helpful in the case of whitening and cleaning teeth, they also had their harmful traits. An abrasive toothpaste, as well as overzealous brushing, led to patients with receding gum lines and sensitive teeth. This prompted toothpaste companies to create an actual paste then in the late 1900s with low abrasiveness and a new set of additives. These included new chemicals, such as fluoride, triclosan, to aid more in the deep cleaning of teeth.
There were also flavor and sweetening additives to make toothpaste a more enjoyable substance. These additives accomplished many new impressive feats, like cutting the number of patient cavities almost in half and decreasing the number of patients with gum disease as well. These additives also had adverse effects, similar to those before them, but now not only could one’s teeth reap these effects, but the rest of the body as well. These modern-day additives were now linked to several forms of cancer as well as one’s general health. They’ve led to lower IQ scores, skeletal fibrosis, and generally weaker bones.
While before, additives found in toothpaste could be found anywhere in the natural world, this wasn’t the case anymore. These additives were now isolated and created in laboratories where scientists would spend years researching chemical additives that would improve toothpaste in ways that would not only make it more profitable to large scale companies but also improve dental hygiene as well. Not all kinds of toothpaste have these chemical additives, but all tubes of toothpaste do have at least one type of additive because additives are really just ingredients.
One can find a multitude of toothpaste with additives that are found in nature without some of the adverse general health effects that come from chemical additives, but this toothpaste may lack the precision to deep clean teeth and treat certain dental conditions. In any case, additives are just ingredients, and as consumers, everyone has a say in what parts come in the products they choose to buy.