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Ancient Dental Care: 1500-Year-Old Toothpaste

Did you know that the ancient Egyptians were interested in dental care? In fact, there might be a thing or two we could learn from how this ancient civilization cared for their teeth. Back in 2003, curators at a Vietnamese museum made an interesting discovery: the world’s oldest formula for toothpaste.

This ancient toothpaste, which existed more that 1,500 years before Colgate began marketing the first commercial toothpaste in 1873, consisted of rock salt, mint, dried Iris and pepper, all of which were then crushed and mixed to form a paste. The Egyptian papyrus containing the recipe describes the toothpaste as a “powder for white and perfect teeth.” It may sound like a far cry from the toothpaste you can buy today, but it apparently works quite well, at least according to Austrian dentist Dr. Heinz Neuman who stated:

“I found that it was not unpleasant. It was painful on my gums and made them bleed as well, but that’s not a bad thing, and afterward my mouth felt fresh and clean.”

Dr. Neuman also stated that although it made his gums bleed, it was a huge improvement over the kinds of toothpaste that were available as recently as a century ago. Considering the ingredients, it’s somewhat surprising it left a clean feeling in this dentist’s mouth. However, what’s even more surprising is that someone was willing to try this primitive concoction!

We often assume that our modern dental care techniques are better quality than those of cultures which existed before us, and that might often be the case. However, some dental care techniques haven’t changed much over the years at all. As toothpaste manufacturer Colgate points out in their “History of Toothbrushes and Toothpastes” article:

“The basic fundamentals have not changed since the times of the Egyptians and Babylonians – a handle to grip, and a bristle-like feature with which to clean the teeth. Over its long history, the toothbrush has evolved to become a scientifically designed tool using modern ergonomic designs and safe and hygienic materials that benefit us all.”

In fact, this 1,500-year-old toothpaste recipe may not be that strange at all. Dentists have discovered that Iris, one of the main ingredients, is beneficial to dental care by helping to fight gum disease, and now used commercial tubes of toothpaste.

Would you be willing to try this ancient toothpaste? Let us know in the comments below. If you’re in need of some modern dental care in the Bellevue, WA. area, book and appointment with Smiles of Bellevue and Eastside Smiles.

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