Rectangular ceramic toothpaste pot, 1850-1910.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Pot for S J Weston's Myrrh and Borax tooth soap, prepared by S J Weston, London. Toothpowders and toothpastes are thought to have been used as long ago as 500 BC in China. They did not appear in Britain until the late 18th century, and were applied using brushes by the rich, while the poor used their fingers. Many of the early powders probably caused more harm than good, as they contained abrasive substances such as china, brick dust and cuttlefish.