There are few things in life which we use frequently and have no idea what they do. I would argue that toothpaste falls into this category. I doubt that many people could intelligently explain why adding toothpaste to your toothbrush does anything useful. So today, I am taking a deep dive into toothpaste. After all, if you’re putting something in your mouth twice a day, you should probably know what is going on.
The quest for a clean mouth is nothing new. 5000 years ago, the Ancient Egyptians were struck with a similar desire. Their efforts in no way resembled the pharmacist medicines we have today. It was a paste made of oxen hooves, eggshells, pumice, myrrh and water. It was probably kinda effective because all of the abrasion would have scrubbed any excess food out from between their teeth. However, it would have probably also ground away at the teeth themselves. Damned if ya do, damned if ya don’t. One legacy does still remain: When you go to the dentist, they will still polish your teeth with a pumice mixture.
The first product which vaguely resembles toothpaste came about in 1824. A dentist named Peabody added soap to the existing dental paste (made of nothing overly helpful), and about thirty years later, chalk was added in. Initially it came in a jar (Colgate were already in the game at this point), and the whole household could dip their brushes in communally. Sounds like good family fun. It wasn’t for another forty years that someone would look at paint tubes and wonder why we weren’t doing the same thing for toothpaste. It cut down the need for everyone to be double dipping. After world war two, fluoride was added, soap was removed and replaced by emulsifying agents and the tooth whitening ingredients were added.
Our modern toothpaste has a number of different ingredients that it so effective at keeping our mouth healthy:
- Abrasives: Like the ancient Egyptians, we still include ingredients which are abrasive enough to clean away gunk from those hard to reach places. The only difference is that we have engineered these modern pharmacist medicines to be rough enough to clean, but not rough enough to damage the enamel.
- Foam: Most toothpastes have an ingredient that causes the paste to foam. This is actually very important because it spreads everywhere in your mouth more effectively.
- Preservatives: These work to prevent the growth of bacteria in the toothpaste itself. This is why you have never wondered if your toothpaste has gone off.
- Tasting agents: Let’s be honest; a lot of our choices around toothpaste hinge on taste. After all, it is the only short term metric we have. It is difficult to tell whether your oral hygiene has improved over months, but we do know that the minty taste is pleasant.
There are also a range of different ingredients that might be included depending on the particular product.
- Potassium nitrate to restore enamel to the places where our teeth have become sensitive
- Zinc ions and pyrophosphate to combat excess plaque on your teeth
- Clue covarine, a chemical which sticks to your teeth and makes them appear less yellow
- Extra fluoride
We should be extremely grateful for the plethora of good options we have in oral pharmacist medicines. The thought of eggshells and sand makes me cringe a little bit…
Experts have identified five different tactics to effectively brush your teeth:
Step 1: Work around the outside of your teeth. But it is important not to rush. Dentists recommend thinking consciously about each tooth so that you slow down and don’t miss spots
Step 2: Think about your tilt. The optimal angle is about 45 degrees, and you should hit your gumline to wash away all the excess food stuck in the ridge between tooth and gum. Short strokes that are about as wide as each tooth is best practice.
Step 3: Work your way around the inside of your teeth. This is often neglected because no one sees them. But the health and appearance of the inside of your teeth will ultimately have a bearing on the outside as well.
Step 4: Work your way across the ridges of your teeth. Given that these parts of your teeth have the most contact with food, it stands to reason that they are most likely to get plaque building up. Again, that short tooth wide brushing is most effective here.
Step 5: Brush your tongue. The tongue actually contributes to your breath more than any other part of your mouth. If you brush carefully, you will remove those odor causing bacteria that are chilling on your tongue.
Every trip to the dentist ends the same way: Me, lying about how frequently I floss. Apparently, I floss twice a day. In reality, it might be every few days. It’s foolish and I know it. She is an expert, she must be able to see through my life. Dentists consider flossing the most effective way to clean the tight spaces between your teeth. It also reduces mild gum disease and gingivitis.
The other thing that is really helpful is mouthwash. It freshens bad breath using antimicrobials, it reduces plaque, and it fights cavities and tooth decay by increasing the amount of fluoride in your mouth. There are a few things to consider though. It only masks your bad breath rather than really addressing the source of the problem. But hey, when you’re in the moment, a mask is sometimes all you need. On the balance of things, I still see it as a beneficial part of good oral hygiene.
As you can see, we have come a long way since the days of Ancient Egypt. Our products are scientifically refined to be as effective as possible. Shop our wide range of oral hygiene products today. It will give you something to smile about.
All the best,