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Photo with a blurry background and toothpaste from a tube of toothpaste being applied to the bristles of a toothbrush in the foreground
Toothpaste from a tube when applied to a toothbrush

Toothpaste  - also toothpaste , toothpaste or toothpaste  - is a soft paste or gel that increases the effectiveness of mechanical teeth cleaning . The name pasta comes from the Latin name for a semi-solid medicinal preparation for external use. The main components of the toothpaste are cleaning agents, foaming agents, wetting agents and humectants, flavorings and aromas , preservatives as well as coloring and additives. Toothpastes also contain active ingredients for dental prophylaxis , especially for periodontitis and tooth decay ( fluoride ).


Cleaning bodies ( e.g. silicate compounds , whiting chalk or marble powder ) remove plaque and harmful bacteria from the tooth surface together with the toothbrush . You are primarily responsible for the positive effect of the toothpaste. All other additives are aids or support various functions such as caries prophylaxis, periodontal disease prevention, refreshing effect or whitening of the teeth.

Toothpaste tubes from different manufacturers

Foaming agents ( e.g. sodium lauryl sulphate) help the toothpaste to be evenly distributed during the cleaning process. They also loosen up leftover food and plaque, which improves the cleaning effect, particularly in areas that are difficult to reach with a toothbrush. The detached plaque is bound by the wetting agents present and can thus be more easily rinsed out at the end of the cleaning process. Sorbitol is a humectant and is used in many toothpastes to keep them from drying out. In addition, sorbitol - in combination with a variety of possible flavors and aromas - ensures a fresh taste.

INCI -compliant declaration of the ingredients of a toothpaste

The ingredients also include small amounts of fluorides . Fluoride is said to be the most important ingredient. Regular use of toothpastes containing fluoride hardens tooth enamel and is one of the most important reasons for the decline in tooth decay in children and adolescents. See also: fluoridation .

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that reduces inflammation of the gums and helps prevent them from developing again. When used in oral care products, Triclosan is considered safe from a toxicological point of view. Because of its wide use as a disinfectant and the associated overall exposure, there is a fear of the spread of resistance . The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) therefore recommends limiting the use of triclosan to the necessary level.

Pyrophosphate is an energy-rich phosphorus compound that effectively counteracts the mineralization of plaque and thus helps prevent or at least slow down the formation of tartar (periodontal prophylaxis). Zinc salts, like triclosan, have a bactericidal effect and thus counteract the formation of tartar.

Before simply using toothpastes with special indications (for example with sensitive tooth necks, color deposits), dental advice should be obtained. Exposed tooth necks with tiny dentin canals are often the cause of increased sensitivity to heat, cold, sweet or sour. Potassium compounds, amine fluoride and arginine should be able to close these fine channels and form a protective film.

Highly abrasive pastes are used to remove paint deposits, but can rub off exposed cementum and tooth enamel. The abrasiveness is given as the RDA / REA value ( Radioactive Dentin / Enamel Abrasion ). The higher this value, the stronger the abrasiveness.

Some of the substances added to toothpaste can occasionally lead to allergic reactions. Flavors and aromas (for example menthol , cinnamon oil , peppermint oil ) as well as preservatives (for example hydroxybenzoic acid esters, parabens) may be responsible for this. There are special toothpastes for allergy sufferers. Almost no allergies are known to the amphoteric surfactant cocamidopropyl betaine (often contained in children's toothpastes ) and other additives such as allantoin . In the case of a known allergy to daisy family , toothpaste with additives from this plant family (such as chamomile) should be avoided. A new development is the use of lactic acid bacteria as the main ingredient of toothpaste, Lactobacillus paracasei, to combat tooth decay. These are able to specifically identify and remove caries bacteria.


Toothpaste was preceded by tooth powder for rubbing off the plaque with fine cleaning particles. They can be proven for many cultures through archaeological dental findings and written sources. The Romans, for example, used the term Dentifricium ("means for rubbing teeth"), Pliny d. Ä. also indicates ingredients: powdered bones burned to ashes, horn or mussel shells, pumice flour, baking soda , mixed with myrrh . Celsus recommends ground salt. So-called tooth salt is still used today as a tooth cleaning agent.

Tooth powder of the 19th century contained, for example, marble powder, pumice or brick flour, magnesium carbonate , powdered egg, sepia or oyster shells, charcoal powder and the like. These powders have already been mixed in factories or by pharmacists and sold in paper bags or cans. To use it, you put a wet finger, a wooden stick or a sponge into the powder and put the required amount into your mouth. With the finger or a suitable brush, the teeth were then "mechanically freed from the clinging mucus".

Soap powder was also added from 1824 onwards, but the moisture in the air caused it to clump. That is why the cleaning body and soap mixture, known as “tooth soap”, was mostly a block on which the wet toothbrush was scrubbed back and forth until foam formed. Alternatively, there was thin liquid dental soap in bottles, in which the cleaning particles settled at the bottom.

The toothbrush mixtures necessarily contained flavor enhancers, for example peppermint oil or menthol , honey , sugar , violet oil . Pain reliever, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory additives were also added, such as sage , calamus oil , clove oil , cocaine , salicylic acid . Most of the dentifrices of the 19th century were colored pink to dark red with carmine in order to create a strong color for the gums and lips, following the ideal of beauty.

Advertising poster for Kolynos toothpaste from the 1940s

In 1850, at the age of 23 , Washington W. Sheffield invented the world's first toothpaste by adding glycerin, which was made in a small laboratory in New London, 170 Broad Street. Toothpaste was mainly offered in tin or ceramic cans, but dried out easily in them. Sales in tinfoil bags were also unsatisfactory, as the corner to be cut off for removal quickly became unusable due to drying. His son, Lucius Tracy Sheffield, observed the use of collapsible metal tubes for paints and varnishes while studying in Paris. From this, in 1876, he developed the idea of ​​filling his father's toothpaste into such tubes.

From 1887, Carl Sarg sold his Kalodont toothpaste in closable tubes in Vienna with great advertising effort , as they were known from artist supplies and was thus able to establish his brand as an international mass product within a few years. From 1892, five years later, “ Dr. Sheffield's Creme Dentifrice ”produces and sells. In 1896 the Colgate company entered the toothpaste tube business and built an empire on the product. Around 1890, Willoughby D. Miller had put forward the then still controversial theory that bacteria in the oral flora break down carbohydrates into acids and cause tooth decay . Together with him, Newell Sill Jenkins therefore developed a toothpaste called Kolynos , which was the first to contain disinfectants . The name comes from the Greek Kolyo Nosos ( κωλύω νόσος , "disease prevention"). After 17 years of development work and clinical studies, Jenkins transferred the production and distribution to his son Leonard A. Jenkins, who brought the first toothpaste tubes onto the market on April 13, 1908. In 1937 Kolynos was already being produced in 22 countries and sold in 88 countries. Nowadays, Kolynos is still widespread in South America and Hungary. Colgate-Palmolive acquired the product from American Home Products in 1995 for $ 1 billion.

Tooth powder has increasingly lost its importance since the 1920s. It is still available, but only has significant market shares in Asia.

As early as the 19th century, the protective effect of fluoridated products was postulated in Europe and so there were already around 1900 attempts to equip toothpaste with a caries prophylaxis by adding fluoride . One of the first preparations in Germany was "Tanagra", manufactured by Fr. Töllner in Bremen. It was only when American fluoride research became known in Europe after the Second World War that fluoridated toothpastes gradually conquered the market, including "Biox Fluor" from Knoll , the first toothpaste with amine fluoride . With “Crest”, Procter & Gamble launched the first toothpaste with tin fluoride (“Fluoristan”) on the market in the mid-1950s .

In dry form, toothpaste tablets are being developed as hygiene products for the mouth and teeth, the ingredients of which are very similar to toothpaste.

The Stripes

Method of inserting strips into toothpaste.

The colored stripes that appear in some toothpastes are only used for visual distinction. They have no effect on cleaning teeth.

Scheme for inserting strips from the sides of the tube of toothpaste.

Striped toothpaste is made in different ways:

Surface strips

These stripes appear in the exit, as with the Signal brand . The opening of the tube is extended by a tube about two centimeters into the interior of the tube. There are several small openings at its foot, i.e. towards the front end of the tube. The colored material used to create the strips is stored in the front part of the tube. The rest of the tube is filled with white toothpaste. When you press the tube, the white toothpaste presses through the tube. Since the pressure is evenly distributed in the tube, the colored cream is also pressed into the white toothpaste as a strip through the openings at the end of the tube.

Another method of producing surface stripes, mainly white toothpaste, is the use of tiny pieces of solid food coloring that are attached to the tube outlet. When you push it out, the strips are painted onto the emerging pasta strand.

Deep streak

The toothpaste is already filled with strips. If a toothpaste tube is opened, no mechanical device can be seen at the tube opening. It is noticeable that white and colored toothpaste are already distributed throughout the tube. For this purpose, the tube is filled using a special filling nozzle.

Toothpaste strips

Natural means

  • Wood ash, often made from beech wood
  • lime
  • Baking soda
  • Other cleaning powders that may contain ash or sea salt.

Today's active ingredients

For the prophylaxis against dental caries and for the remineralization of the tooth enamel (partly controversial):

In a test by Stiftung Warentest (as of January 2019), toothpastes that do not contain fluoride were consistently rated "poor".

Against plaque and gingivitis :

Often contained in so-called sensitive toothpastes against tooth sensitivity:

Special toothpastes

Toothpaste containing gold

Radioactive toothpastes

Doramad was a radioactive toothpaste. It was withdrawn from the market after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

Toothpastes with gold

As an antimicrobial ingredient, gold offers no advantage over other antimicrobial agents. As a common antimicrobial ingredient in toothpaste, zinc nitrate is more effective than gold. There is also no scientific evidence for the "regenerative effect on susceptibility to tooth decay and periodontitis" claimed by some manufacturers.

Toothpaste with activated charcoal

Toothpastes containing carbon-based substances

Charcoal is used to give the toothpaste a black color. There is no scientific proof of the effective effect - of carbon-based substances in toothpaste - on teeth whitening, general oral hygiene, health-preserving properties or bad breath.

Manufacturers and trademarks (selection)

Companies Brands
United StatesUnited States Colgate-Palmolive (since 2004 with the GABA group )SwitzerlandSwitzerland Colgate, Dentagard, Cibaca, Ultrabrite, Kolynos , Tom's of Maine, Aronal, Elmex, Meridol
United StatesUnited States Procter & Gamble Crest, blend-a-med , blend-a-dent, Blendax , Blendi, Oral-B, AZ, Ipana, Fluocaril, Parogencyl
United KingdomUnited Kingdom GlaxoSmithKline Dr. Best , Odol , Parodontax, Settima, Sensodyne, Aquafresh, macleans
GermanyGermany handle Theramed, Licor del Polo, Vademecum, Denivit
NetherlandsNetherlands/ UnileverUnited KingdomUnited Kingdom Signal, mentadent, close-up, pepsodent
United StatesUnited States Church & Dwight Arm & Hammer, US and Canada only: Aim, Close-Up, Pepsodent, and mentadent
IndiaIndia Dabur Binaca, Promise, Meswak, Babool
JapanJapan Lion Corporation Ciptadent, Fluordent, Smile Up, Fresh & White, Kodomo
GermanyGermany Dr. Theiss natural goods Lacalut
GermanyGermany Aldi Eurodont, Friscodent
GermanyGermany Lidl Dentalux, Nevadent (Switzerland only)
GermanyGermany Dm-market Dontodent, Alverde
GermanyGermany Kaufland K-Classic Dental
GermanyGermany Edeka Electrolytic capacitors
GermanyGermany penny Alldent
GermanyGermany Norma Dentabella
GermanyGermany Müller Sensident, Terra Naturi
GermanyGermany Rossmann Perlodent, Alterra
( Dr. Wolff Medicines )GermanyGermany BioRepair, Blanx, Karex
GermanyGermany Fat Pharma Pearl white
GermanyGermany DENTAL cosmetics elkadent, el-cemed, Perlodont, Putzi, Rot Weiss, Silca

Trademarks: dentalux (Lidl), Friscodent (Aldi), todaydent (REWE), alldent (Penny), dentofit (Hofer); The main product of the Leowerke was always the Chlorodont toothpaste, this brand name was used until the 1980s.

GermanyGermany Dr. Rudolf Dear Successor Ajona, aminomed, Pearls & Dents
GermanyGermany Wala remedies Dr Hauschka Med
GermanyGermany OSMA worm Elina dent
GermanyGermany Laverana natural cosmetics Lavera
SwitzerlandSwitzerland Emmi Ultrasonic Emmi-dent
CroatiaCroatia Atlantic Grupa Plidenta
SpainSpain Laboratorios Verkos Kemphor
ItalyItaly Ludovico Martelli Marvis
SwitzerlandSwitzerland Curaden AG Curaprox: Enzycal 1450/950 / zero, Black Is White and White Is Black
SwitzerlandSwitzerland Swissdent Cosmetics AG Swissdent Crystal


  • The toothpaste affair that began in 1999 was about doping substances that the German athlete Dieter Baumann is said to have unwittingly ingested through toothpaste.


  • Rolf Mahlke: Mr. von Mayenburg's toothpaste. In: Die ZahnarztWoche. (DZW) 51–52, 2007, p. 18 ff.
  • Wilfried Umbach (Ed.): Cosmetics and hygiene from head to toe. 3. Edition. Wiley-VCH Verlag, Weinheim 2004, ISBN 3-527-30996-9 , p. 197 ff.

Web links

Commons : Toothpaste  album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Toothpaste  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Brockhaus' Kleines Konversations-Lexikon, fifth edition, volume 2. Leipzig 1911., p. 362.
  2. Does fluoride endanger health? , from September 15, 2014, accessed on February 5, 2015.
  3. BZÄK, fluoridation for caries prevention (PDF; 125 kB).
  4. BfR supports the ban on the use of triclosan in food contact materials (PDF; 49 kB) Federal Institute for Risk Assessment.
  6. ^ I. Petrou, R. Heu, M. Stranick, S. Lavender, L. Zaidel, D. Cummins, RJ Sullivan, C. Hsueh, JK Gimzewski: A breakthrough therapy for dentin hypersensitivity: how dental products containing 8% arginine and calcium carbonate work to deliver effective relief of sensitive teeth. In: The Journal of clinical dentistry. Volume 20, Number 1, 2009, pp. 23-31. PMID 19489189 .
  7. C. Sander et al.: Comparison of abrasion values. In: ZM . 7, 2005, pp. 44-50.
  8. Pliny , Naturalis historia , 28.49, 31.46, 31.21 + 26, 36.42.
  9. ^ Aulus Cornelius Celsus , De medicina VI.13.
  10. Tooth powder . In: Heinrich August Pierer , Julius Löbe (Hrsg.): Universal Lexicon of the Present and the Past . 4th edition. tape 19 . Altenburg 1865, p. 504 ( ).
  11. ^ Dentifricium. In: Johann Nepomuk Rust: Theoretical-practical manual of surgery. Volume 5, Berlin / Vienna 1831, p. 734.
  12. ^ Sheffield, History ( Memento November 6, 2014 in the Internet Archive ).
  13. ^ Alois Brusatti : History of Unilever Austria . Himberg near Vienna 1985, p. 20 ff.
  14. Kolynos Toothpaste and Nalgiri Cosmetics - A curious blend of Greek and Hindu . Retrieved April 2, 2016.
  15. Kerry Segrave: America Brushes Up: The Use and Marketing of Toothpaste and Toothbrushes in the Twentieth Century . McFarland, 2010, ISBN 978-0-7864-5684-0 , pp. 35 ( ).
  16. ^ Early dental fluoride preparations .
  17. A. Rohrer: Tooth powder and mouthwashes. Berlin 1910, p. 104.
  18. How do the strips get into the toothpaste? In: Hamburger Abendblatt. December 17, 2013. Retrieved April 2, 2016.
  19. Toothpaste: The best toothpaste for your teeth , Stiftung Warentest, December 19, 2018. Accessed January 3, 2019.
  21. Jonas Junevičius, Juozas Žilinskas, Kęstutis Česaitis, GabrielėČesaitienė, Darius Gleiznys, Žaneta Maželienė: Antimicrobial activity of silver and gold in toothpastes: A comparative analysis. In: Stomatologija - Baltic Dental and Maxillofacial Journal . Vol. 17, No. 1 , 2015, p. 9-12 , PMID 26183852 (English).
  22. Toothpaste with gold dust: luxury in a tube. Stiftung Warentest, August 26, 2016. Accessed September 23, 2016.
  23. Ulrich Stock: Coal has a future! In: The time . No. 26 , 2019, p. 25 .
  24. Linda Greenwall, Nairn HF Wilson: Charcoal toothpastes: what we know so far. In: Royal Pharmaceutical Society, July 13, 2017, accessed June 6, 2019 .
  25. John K. Brooks, Nasir Bashirelahi, Mark A. Reynolds: Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices . In: Journal of the American Dental Association . Volume 148, Issue 9, September 2017, p. 661–670 , doi : 10.1016 / j.adaj.2017.05.001 (English).
  26. The Baumann case - 20 years after the toothpaste affair. Retrieved on April 6, 2020 (German).