Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rotting Teeth? Pass the Toothpaste, Please

Ever wonder about the tiny things we take for granted in the 21st Century? That tube in your medicine cabinet? Crest. Colgate. Aim. They all give us a myriad of options. Remember the last time you went to buy toothpaste? I do. Ugh. Trying to choose from whitening, ultra whitening, regular, minty-fresh, bubblegum, baking soda based, took me about fifteen minutes to pick my new toothpaste. Now I just stick with what I chose that day even though it's on the more expensive end. I know it. It works. And it takes good.

In the 19th Century, Colgate had yet to run to our rescue. There was a multitude of options to choose from though. Oh yes. The world wasn't backward by the 1800's. Nope. Tooth brushing ala charcoal was the poor man's choice. THAT brought a whole new dimension to teeth whitening.

Typically, brushing one's teeth involved "tooth powder". There were a myriad of recipes for said powder. For example:

1 oz. myrrh (fine powder) 
2 spoonfuls of your best honey (This does not refer to your significant other!!) 
A pinch of green sage

Or ...

2 oz. cuttlefish bone 
1 oz. cream of tartar 
2 drachms drop lake 
15 drops clover oil

By the early 19th Century, powders began forming into what we know more familiarly as "paste". Soap was added by the 1830's and chalk by the 1860's. Toothpaste wasn't mass produced until the early 1870's and it was sold in a jar, not a tube.

Ingredients like cuttlefish or charcoal were found to be very abrasive to the tooth. Over time, toothpaste gentled and grew more into what was a vague idea of the paste we use on a daily basis now.

Once again, I'm reminded of the simple little things we enjoy on a daily basis. It makes me want to mouth my minty-fresh paste a bit longer, or send a thank you card to the chemists who continue to make brushing my teeth a pleasant experience.

Your takeaway from today's little history lesson? The strawberry was considered to be a good source of breath freshening. I'd agree with that. Pass the berries, please. :)


  1. I'll never look at my tube of Colgate again, and I'll take a moment to thank the Lord for it! :-)
    Write on!
    Because of Christ,

    1. I know! Makes you want to kiss your toothpaste! Lol

  2. My takeaway...hold on while I go brush my teeth!!!! :)

  3. I've read in stories about tooth powders - never charcoal though!

    1. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around charcoal!

  4. Charcoal?! Can you imagine how completely disgusting that had to taste? It would take someone with a much stronger stomach than my own! OMGrody! Ill not ever forget that and praise God every day when I'm brushing my teeth!

  5. Honey in toothpaste! Oh my. and what on earth is 2 drachms drop lake (brb googling)ok back its a unit of weight so I guess the drop lake is water.

    I will never look at toothpaste the same again!
    as a child I hated cleaning my teeth hated the taste. When the gel was introduced with a nicer taste I was much better (hated the spearmint or minty taste)

  6. I think I'm thankful that when I was growing up poor my mom made us use baking soda to brush our teeth and not charcoal! Yuck! And I thought baking soda was bad! lol

    1. I did the baking soda thing too. Tastes bad but works great. ...