Deadly Toothpaste (Snippets 26)

Windows into History

vintagetoothpowder (source:

Toothpaste dates back to Greek and Roman times, and for the first two thousand years of its history tended to be rather nasty, abrasive stuff.  It was not until late in the 19th Century that anything was formulated that could be said with any confidence not to do more harm than good.

Early toothpastes were powder that had to be mixed with water, until ready-mixed toothpaste finally surpassed powdered dentifrice in popularity early in the 20th Century.

In 1814, dentist Benjamin James wrote Treatise on the Management of the Teeth, with a chapter tackling dentifrice.  We have looked at some dubious medical advice from the past in previous snippets (11, 15 and 18) but here for once is a 19th Century book that gives sensible advice: James suggested brushing just with water, which was the best option available at the time.  However, the details of dentifrices available…

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