Inspiring Inventions: Toothpaste Tube

Art inspires science in the history of the toothpaste tube! Before the 1850s “toothpaste” was not actually a paste but more commonly manufactured as a powder & included chalk as a main ingredient. Later in the 1850s, as other ingredients were added to toothpaste which gave it a consistency we’re more familiar with today, manufacturers and dentists sold their toothpastes & powders in jars.

Many dentists, in fact, sold their own brands. One such dentist was Dr. Washington Sheffield of Connecticut who, is responsible for the invention of both toothpaste as we know it and the collapsible toothpaste tube. Sheffield got the idea on a trip in Paris with his son Lucius. They happened upon painters who were squeezing paints from collapsible tubes. Sheffield then devised a tube for his own ready-made toothpaste to distribute to his patients.

He created another common dental product that we still use today–mouthwash, or “elixir balm” as he called it.

After perfecting his ready-made paste by adding mint to it, in the mid-1870s Dr. Sheffield began his own manufacturing company called Sheffield Dentifrice Co. to produce the popular ready-made toothpaste and balms.

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