In the past, people’s mouths could be rather unpleasant places, not least because of what they put in them to try to keep them clean!
The ancient Egyptians used a tooth powder containing ash, egg shells and pumice stone. Worse still, ancient Roman toothpaste and mouthwash contained Portuguese urine, which they believed was the strongest kind.
We still use ammonia (the whitening agent in pee) in toothpaste, but you’ll be glad to hear that it’s made in a laboratory.
Since then all kinds of ingredients have been used. One recipe from the 1800s contained burnt bread, and it was common for brick or china dust to be found in toothpaste in those days too.
A dentist called Peabody was probably the first to add soap to toothpowder in 1824, and Glycerine was also added around this time to turn the powders into paste.
Toothpaste was sold in jars until 1892 when Dr Sheffield’s Creme Dentrice became available in a tube. Dr Sheffield went on to set up Colgate.
The earliest toothbrushes were sticks chewed at one end – some have been found in China from 5,000 years ago.
The earliest evidence of toothbrushes like those we use today is from 1498, also from China. The bristles were made from hog hair.
Toothbrushes arrived in Europe in the 1600s but weren’t commonly used until the 1900s. The first nylon toothbrush was invented in 1938, but it was very hard. People didn’t bother brushing much until the 1950s, when better toothbrushes had been developed.
You have probably had one full set of teeth – your 20 baby (or primary) teeth – and are now kilted out with your permanent teeth. By the time you reach 21, the average amount of teeth you’ll have is 32, which means in your lifetime you’ll have had an average of 52 teeth!
Ancient cures for toothache you wouldn’t want to try include strapping a toad to the jaw, picking bones out of wolf poo and wearing them, rubbing the ashes of burnt animal heads into the gums and washing the teeth in tortoise’s blood three times a year.