Monday, July 23, 2012

While I was musing over today’s post, I noticed a tube of toothpaste on the bathroom counter and wondered where it came from. I don’t mean literally, it came from Target and I’m the one who purchased it. I mean how did toothpaste come to be a part of our daily ritual? When my children were little, they often asked me questions like this, now they just Google the answers to everything. So, I did the same to find out, “Where does toothpaste come from?”
Anyone who has Goggled anything knows you get A LOT of information, much of which you don’t want, whenever you start that search engine. In an effort to keep this post interesting to those of us who don’t have a degree in dentistry, below is my abbreviated version on my Monday Muse: Where does toothpaste come from? brushing dates as far back as the Greeks and Romans. Early evidence suggests that attempts were made to clean the teeth with feathers, rags and twigs. These twigs, also known as chewing sticks, (which still are marketed in Africa today. You can read more about them here), were picked from aromatic trees known to clean and freshen the breath. One end was chewed, and became softened and brush-like, while the opposite end was pointed and used as a pick to clean food and debris from between the teeth. 

Although China is recorded as having bristled toothbrushes made from cattle bone and swine bristles as far back as 1600 A.D. Toothbrushes weren’t introduced into America until 1857. However, Americans didn’t really catch on to the habit of brushing their teeth until soldiers brought the Army enforced habit home after WWII.

Enough on the tools, where does the paste come from you ask? Isn’t that what this post is supposed to be about? Yes, it is. So, let's move forward. History states that as early as 5000 B.C. Egyptians were using a paste of ash, oil, keifer and salt, to clean their teeth. It was probably not very tasty, but did provide a scrubbing away of some of the film and decay. Other pastes, used in India and China, were known to include, ox hooves, burnt eggshells, pumice, crushed bones, oyster shells, charcoal and bark. The Chinese had the insight to flavor their pastes with herbal mints and Ginseng, which I’m sure, improved the taste.

At this point, little change is made in the development of toothpaste, with the exception of the addition of soap and chalk. Slowly tooth powders, as they were commonly called, made their way westward, but only for the rich. 

In 1873 a name we are still familiar with today, Colgate, gets involved in the teeth cleaning business. Their product smells and taste better than the tooth powder of the day. Consequently, Colgate proceeds to transform the powders into a paste and move the paste from jars to lead/tin tubes. After the lead/tin shortage from WWII, and the fact that lead leaks into the tubes, toothpaste is moved into plastic tubes and goes from all natural to more synthetic. Personally, I prefer the more natural toothpastes over the synthetic ones. 

In the 1950’s Crest gave Colgate a run for their money with their new fluoride toothpaste, created specifically to combat America’s serious tooth decay problem. However, Colgate was too well-established to be put under by their new found competitor. Today, both companies thrive, in true American capitalistic form, neither able to fully take control of the market. 

In writing this post, I answered my Muse question and learned more facts about toothpaste than I thought there was to know. Including ones like early toothpaste, based on what is was composed of, it once probably made your breath smell worse instead of better. This was probably more information than you care to know also. So, let’s get to some toothpaste facts you may find helpful.  

Toothpaste (despite its name) is handy to have on hand because it is quite  multifunctional. Check out the tips below on how you can get your toothpaste working extra hard for you. 

Disclaimer: I am not a D.D.S, nor do I  play one on TV.  I’ve only tried a few of these strategies, and certainly advise you to PROCEED WITH CAUTION before squirting toothpaste on your belongings (be it a wall, watch, piano, dress, table, etc.). If possible test a small inconspicuous patch first.

  • Crayon on Painted Walls: Rub a damp cloth and toothpaste on your marked-up wall and rinse with a clean wet cloth.
  • Carpet Cleaning/Stain removal: Scrub away with an abrasive brush and toothpaste, rinse, and you’ll scrub the stain right out. 
  • Cleaning Running Shoes: Similar to above, scrub away scuff marks with toothpaste and a damp cloth
  • Scuffed Leather Shoes: Put a dab on the scuff, rub in with a soft cloth, and rinse with a damp cloth.
  • Stained Clothes: Apply the toothpaste directly to the stained fabric and rub the fabric together with all you’ve got. Rinse with water. You may have to do this a few times to fully remove the stain. This may not work on all fabrics or stains.
  • Cleaning Piano Keys: A well-used piano usually means some darker piano keys after a while. Scrub with toothpaste and a toothbrush, then wipe dry with a damp cloth.
  • Make Chrome Gleam: Use some toothpaste in a pinch, and watch your taps shine.
  • Scrub Those Nails: Fingernails and toenails are made of similar stuff as teeth are. So scrub away using toothpaste and a nail brush for some shiny extremities.
  • Take water rings off coffee table: Simply rub some toothpaste into the offending mark with a soft cloth and wipe dry with a clean damp cloth. Finish off with some furniture polish to help protect grandma’s antique table from staining again. Better yet – use coasters.
  • Jewelry Cleaner: Use a soft toothbrush to scrub lightly with a dab of toothpaste, rinse it, and polish it dry with a soft towel. You’ll discover a whole new shine to your precious accessories. Note: Do not use this technique on pearls, as you may damage the finish
  • Overnight zit cream: My college roommate used toothpaste as a zit cream regularly. I can’t say if she would have had less or more zits without this remedy. Toothpaste can reduce zit redness and dry out your greasy disaster.
  • Bee Sting ointment: A touch of toothpaste can take the edge off the pain, and soothe the wound. Be sure to take the stinger out first of course.
  • Bug Bite Relief: Instead of scratching those pesky bites dab a little toothpaste on it for soothing relief.
  • Goggle Defogger: Scuba divers swear that toothpaste is a great alternative to pricey defogger gel, and is particularly handy in taking the manufacture film off of a brand new mask or pair of goggles. Simply squirt a dab in each lens and rub in thoroughly with your fingers. Rinse well.


Magical Mystical MiMi said...

Wow, who knew there was so much info. regarding toothpaste! Those early powders n' pastes sound disgusting, especially the inclusion of hooves.. And I suspect you're right, their breath probably smelled worse, yay for the Chinese and their minty freshness! :)I, closet nerd that I am, loved this post. Of course I just plain love learning. Thanks for the tips. I'll def. be trying a few of them out. Another tip. A dab of toothpaste on nail holes in the walls works great. Dries white. :)

Joy said...

Thanks for the informative post! A friend and I were just talking about how in ancient times people didn't live as long because of their teeth problems.

Cherie Reich said...

That's a lot of information about toothpaste! I didn't know it could clean so many things, like piano keys! But it makes sense too.

jnana said...

We Arabians still use the twig- called a "miswak" because it comes from the branches of a miswak tree. Ofcourse, not as an alternative to brushing teeth! But as an optional ritual before prayer to give our breathe a sweet miswak scent.

Sleep-Deprived said...

When I used to show horses, we used toothpaste and a soft toothbrush to clean the silver on show bits. I have also used it to clean jewelry and silver belt buckles. :)

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Cool, about the nail holes, we have a few of those :D

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. If the love of learning makes one a nerd, I guess I'm one too.

Scribbles From Jenn said...

I've heard that also. It's even in affect today since infection in the mouth goes directly to the blood stream and can make you sick. All the more reason to follow the advice from your dentist to brush and floss.

Glad you enjoyed the post.

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Who knew that you should actually bring that tube of toothpaste out of the bathroom? I guess I'll need to buy it in bulk now :D

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Thanks for sharing. I've never heard of the "miswak" tree. I think I need to go Google that.

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Great tip! Toothpaste is a lot less toxic than silver polish. Maybe I can wear my silver tarnished silver jewelry again.

Share this: