Though it has recently become popular again, the use of powder to brush your teeth has been around thousands of years. Here is a brief look at the history of powder, and why some still use it.
Ancient Egyptians were using tooth powder as far back as 5000 BC, and the ancient Greeks, Chinese, and Romans followed suit. Early versions were made of pumice, ox hooves’ ashes, charcoal, and similar materials. These early powders most likely were terrible tasting, though the Chinese did add ginseng and herbal mints to improve the flavor.
The Persians, around 1000 AD, realized that the powders were too abrasive and caused tooth damage, so they softened them by using burnt snail shells, herbs, and honey. In the 18th century, the British became the first to market a tooth powder using baking soda as the key ingredient – along with brick dust, crushed china, earthenware and cuttlefish. By the early 1800s, glycerin was added to turn the powder into paste, and in 1892, Colgate became the first to put toothpaste into a tube.
Some studies have shown that tooth powder may be more effective at removing plaque than toothpaste, and paste contains glycerin, which leaves a film on teeth preventing remineralization. Powders today use a variety of ingredients, including:
• Bentonite Clay – Assists in reducing mineral deficiencies and helps bind toxins (such as those found in mercury fillings) to make them more soluble
• Baking Soda – Works as a gentle abrasive and breath freshener
• Sea Salt – Helpful for gums, has antibacterial properties, and helps neutralize harmful acids
• Sage – Eases swollen gums or irritated teeth, and is a natural tooth-whitener
• Xylitol – Sweetens powder taste and stimulates saliva production
Some powder ingredients have not undergone the rigorous testing and clinical trials required. Note also, it is the act of brushing your teeth that removes plaque – not whether you choose paste or powder.