Story: Dental care

Tooth powders and pastes

Tooth powders and pastes

Remington's Drug Store in Tauranga advertised Odonte tooth powder in the Bay of Plenty Times in November 1875. Tooth powders were first sold in Britain in the 19th century. European settlers in New Zealand used patent powders, as well as those produced by chemists like Arthur Remington, to counter bad breath and whiten teeth. Many early tooth powders and pastes actually damaged teeth, usually because they led to deterioration of tooth enamel. Powdered chalk, crushed brick or charcoal, salt, burnt alum, peroxide and cinnamon were all used in early tooth powders, which were applied to teeth with small brushes. In the early 20th century tooth powders started to include hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, and then, more controversially, fluoride. Gradually toothpaste, packaged in a collapsible tube, replaced powders.

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National Library of New Zealand, Papers Past
Reference: Bay of Plenty Times, 27 November 1875, p. 4

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How to cite this page:

Andrew Schmidt and Susan Moffat, 'Dental care - Early dental care', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/document/30577/tooth-powders-and-pastes (accessed 16 October 2019)

Story by Andrew Schmidt and Susan Moffat, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 6 Nov 2018