Cultures throughout history have tried a variety of things to clean their teeth… Egyptians and Babylonians brushed with twigs around 3500-3000 BC. In 5000 BC, a recipe of ox hooves, eggshells, myrrh, and pumice would result in an Egyptian tooth powder. Ginseng, mint, and salt helped Chinese toothpastes taste better around 500 BC. But what’s in your toothpaste today?
In this episode of Ingredients, chemist George Zaidan divides toothpaste ingredients into different categories–abrasives, humectants, sweeteners, flavors, foaming agents, thickeners and binders, plus a few other key elements–to explain what they are and what purpose each serves. Zaidan also makes and tries some homemade toothpaste with components that meet the same criteria.
Watch more Ingredients episodes on National Geographic‘s YouTube channel.