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Everything You Wanted to Know About Toothpaste

Toothpaste - A Brief History

Toothpaste -- we use it every single day. In fact, Americans brush their teeth nearly 200 billion times a year and spend more than 1.6 billion dollars on it. But, have you ever wondered exactly how it helps our teeth? And how do we go about choosing which one's right for us?

Toothpaste is not a relatively modern phenomena. In fact, as long ago as 3000-5000 BC Egyptians made a dental cream by mixing powdered ashes of oxen hooves with myrrh, burned egg shells, pumice, and water. Unfortunately, these early Egyptians didn't have toothbrushes but used chew sticks to apply their dental cream.

In 1000 AD Persians added burnt shells of snails and oysters along with gypsum. Unfortunately, at this point, toothpaste was still reserved for the rich. In 18th century England a tooth cleaning "powder" containing borax was sold in ceramic pots. One of the problems, which lasted well into the twentieth century, was that they were often very abrasive, causing damage to teeth.

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Prior to WWII, toothpaste was packaged in small lead/tin alloy tubes. The inside of the tube was coated with wax, however, it was discovered that lead from the tubes leached into the product. It was the shortage of lead and tin during WWII that led to the use of laminated (aluminum, paper, and plastic combination) tubes. At the end of the twentieth century pure plastic tubes were used.

The breakthrough that transformed toothpaste into the crucial weapon against tooth decay was the finding that fluoride could dramatically reduce cavities. Dr. William Engler tested 400 preschool children and discovered a dramatic reduction in dental cavities among children treated with fluoride. This study, along with many others done around the world, led to the widespread introduction of fluoride in the 1950s.

So what does toothpaste do and why is it so important to our oral health?

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