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Monday, August 6, 2012

Tooth Cakes

(image from: Vintage Ad Browser)

I was musing in a previous post and regretting not asking my grandparents what they used for oral hygiene and happily my father ventured some information as he remembered it from his time.
He writes;
"In the 1940's we used tooth cake. Not very hygienic but families did that sort of thing. 
It came in a cardboard pack that looked like a compact. One moistened their tooth brush bristles and rubbed them across the surface of the "cake" to pick up some material. This was a type of low foam soap to "clean" the teeth. I suspect it was more the brush that did the cleaning than the cake.
Tubed tooth paste only came in to general use after the war but I can't be sure when. Certainly some time in the late 1940's."

I found lots of vintage ads for toothpaste tubes and powders but no images for tooth "cakes". Plastic was very prolific in manufacture after the war but I imagine that back in my grandmother's childhood they must have used wood and natural bristle.

"Irium" goodness! Sounds very technical.
It is the common surfactant today known as sodium lauryl sulphate. 
A common denominator of tooth products over the last 100 years is to convince people that a product can make their teeth whiter, so not just a new fad.

I have to admit that tubes are one thing that drives me nuts. They are only attractive for the first week of squeezes, after that it's all down hill for me.I have even taken to buying the tubes in small sizes so the mess doesn't last too long! I think it is one of those deal breakers among couples...
"Do you squeeze from the middle or the end?"

So anyone else have some vintage tooth stories our there?


  1. Great post. I've never really thought about how my parents took care of their teeth. Interesting.

  2. I remember watching "Lost In Austen" where the modern girl not only goes back in time but into Pride and Prejudice and was dumbfounded that they cleaned with teeth with twigs from a certain tree.

    I struggle with the splattered bits of toothpaste that my girls don't wash away, it has even ended up on the wall. Maybe twigs might be the answer.

  3. I seem to remember using round tins of tooth cake as a child in the 50s - but not very clearly so I could be making it up!

    My husband obviously puts too much toothpaste on his brush because he always leaves small blobs of (unused) toothpaste in the sink. This annoys me on two counts, one that he's wasting toothpaste and two that he doesn't rinse it away. Actually three counts because he keeps the tap running the whole time while he's brushing so why does he still leave toothpaste in the sink? Plus of course he's wasting water!
    And don't get me started on him not being bothered to squeeze every last drop out of the tube. He starts a new one and I can still be using the old one two weeks later.


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