Most toothpaste is made from baking soda and hydrogen peroxide with an infusion of fluoride, providing the teeth with protection from decay, according to New York University. Toothpaste can also contain abrasives, surfactants, antibacterial agents, flavorants and remineralizers. Whitening toothpaste and herbal or natural toothpaste can contain other ingredients.
Abrasives in toothpaste generally make up around half of the product, and work to remove plaque from the surface of the teeth. A powdered white mica is sometimes added for a polishing effect.
Surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfate are added for their ability to produce foam and improve the cleaning abilities of the toothpaste. Antibacterial agents that reduce bad breath and tartar may also be added, along with flavorants and coloring to make the toothpaste more palatable.
Remineralizers that help to restore enamel to the surface of the tooth are also a common additive. Desensitizing ingredients like potassium nitrate and strontium chloride are sometimes added to the formulation of toothpaste to reduce the user sensitivity during use.
It is thought that toothpaste was first introduced in India, Egypt and China around 6,000 years ago. The Chinese used a mixture of mashed bones and twigs that were blended with flower petals and applied with the end of a sharp bamboo leaf, while the Egyptians used a blend of mashed salt, wet mint leaves and crushed pepper to create toothpaste, according to New York University.