Tooth Powder: Ancient Practice, Modern Art
A month ago
When you first break the seal on your Gaia Smiles tooth powder jar, you may think you’re opting into oral healthcare’s brave new world. Of course, you are an eco-savvy trendsetter, but tooth powder actually has a notable history.
Long before Colgate lined our drugstore shelves, the ancient Egyptians were hard at work on their oral health. Shiny white teeth were a symbol of one’s overall health status (maybe they were onto something?), so the Egyptians played around with different ingredients to make their teeth look fabulous. The first tooth powders contained rock salt and dried iris flowers with mint and pepper to improve breath. Some versions used ash made from ox hooves and egg shells as abrasives. Egyptian dentist wannabes would grind the ingredients into a paste and likely used their fingers to scrub up. This first version of tooth powder caused bleeding gums, but made teeth bright and clean.
In ancient Rome, people wanted Tom-Cruise-level chompers: clean, bright, and as white as possible. Greek and Roman leaders played off of what ancient Egypt had established, but added more intense abrasives. They included crushed bones, pumice, oyster shells, and charcoal. As a result, they had clean teeth and neutralized breath, but worn-down enamel. The Romans also swore by another, more shocking method: they used urine’s natural ammonia to whiten their teeth.
Around 1000 AD, Ancient Persia started to take note of vigorous abrasives’ side effects. They opted instead for somewhat softer materials, like hartshorn, charred gypsum, herbs, honey, and minerals. The Persians also focused on strengthening teeth, compiling recipes that featured lead and powdered flintstone, among other things.
In politically precarious 18th-century England, tooth powder recipes remained stable. Before long, though, the English thought to introduce a powerful, beloved British standby: toast. They would grind toast and use the abrasive powder to scrub their teeth. This provided an affordable, albeit humble, option. Years later, dentists and doctors collaborated and dentifrice made its official appearance in England. This powder was made up of cuttlefish, brick dust, and crushed dishware. Baking soda and sugar were often added as well. Toward the 19th century, manufacturers threw in borax powder to achieve a pleasant foaming effect. Poverty-stricken Brits moved on from toast, using straight baking soda to clean their teeth.
Toothpaste as we know it today started with American Dr. Washington Sheffield, who in 1892 had the inspired idea to store toothpaste in a collapsible tube. Sheffield’s business later became a little company you may have heard of: today we call it Colgate. However, despite this innovation happening on US soil, Americans didn’t jump on the tooth-brushing bandwagon until soldiers returned from World War Two with the habit. This surge in interest caused major developments in toothpaste, including synthetic ingredients and new emulsifiers like sodium lauryl sulphate. Experts discovered that fluoride can help strengthen enamel against decay, and manufacturers began to include it in toothpaste recipes.
Commercial toothpaste hasn’t changed much in the past couple hundred years, but our understanding of oral health has. Just like our ancient tooth powder predecessors, toothpaste creators can only work with the knowledge they have, and surely down the line new science will reveal shortcomings. Today, we know our mouths are powerful, living microbiomes that need just as much support, care, and nutrition as the rest of our bodies.
Gaia Smiles tooth powder is designed with only whole, ethically sourced, organic ingredients that work. Together, the beneficial ingredients inside each jar help to: provide minerals to saliva; support enamel growth and protection; provide bioavailable calcium to feed white teeth from the inside out; alkalize the mouth to create a hospitable environment for only beneficial bacteria; and block plaque’s communication, preventing build-up and bad breath.
Our tooth powder combines ancient cultures’ connection to the natural world with modern society’s nutritional science. The result? A healthy, pleasurable, earth-friendly product. That’s something to smile about.