How is Toothpaste Made?

We use it every day. We rely on it to keep our teeth and gums clean, healthy and smelling fresh. But just how is toothpaste made?

How It’s Made
28 June 2022

Teeth cleaning has come a long way since the Egyptian tooth powder of 5000 BC with its myrrh, volcanic rock, burnt eggshells and ox hoof ash.

However, it wasn’t until the turn of the twentieth century that it began to look like the stuff we have in our bathrooms today. Even then, it has since been continually improved and refined in light of scientific advances.

So, how is toothpaste made today? And how is toothpaste manufactured by the brands in our supermarkets and pharmacies? Let’s find out.

How do you make Toothpaste? The Main Ingredients

The Colgate & Company factory, Jersey City, New Jersey, late 1960s. The roof features a large, octagonal clock and a sign shaped like a tube of toothpaste (Photo: Interim Archives via getty Images)

In answering “how do you make toothpaste”, it’s best to begin with what it’s made of. The main trio of ingredients in today’s toothpaste are abrasives, fluoride and detergent. Admittedly, all three sound more like they belong in your washing machine than your mouth, but they all play important roles in dental health.

Making up between 8 and 20% of standard toothpastes, abrasives polish your teeth to help remove plaque. If your teeth have ever felt “fuzzy”, that was plaque, the film of bacteria caused by sugars and starches in your food. It is this that the abrasives work to remove.

Fluoride prevents cavities, and is also thought to help with the formation of dental enamel. In the US, toothpaste contains around 1,000 to 1,100 parts per million fluoride, but this tends to be higher in European countries, including in the UK.

As for detergents or “surfactants”, that’s the stuff that makes toothpaste foam in your mouth. Not all toothpastes foam, but it’s said to help distribute the paste more effectively. The most common detergent in toothpaste is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) , which is also thought to have antimicrobial benefits.

Other toothpaste ingredients include antibacterial agents like Triclosan or zinc chloride. Flavour is usually added using essential oils like peppermint oil. Glycerin is used both as a natural sweetener and to help maintain moisture in the toothpaste. And xylitol is another plaque remover.

With the ingredients set out, the question is, how is toothpaste produced?

How is Toothpaste Manufactured?

Half empty toothpaste tube spilling (Photo: Mike Kemp via Getty Images)

Toothpaste production is done in vast quantities, in factories using highly automated processes overseen by workers. While some factories might do certain tasks by hand, such as boxing the toothpaste, the vast majority of work is done by machines.

So, how is toothpaste manufactured in these factories?

Firstly, ingredients are sourced and transported to the site, where they are quality tested and placed in enormous silos, ready for use. Barcodes are used to keep track of ingredients and toothpaste batches, and every aspect is carefully monitored by staff.

The ingredients are then weighed. To ensure the utmost accuracy, this is often done both manually and mechanically. Next comes the mixing stage.

Ingredients are mixed in special vats, with the temperature and humidity kept within precise parameters. The first components in the mix are usually the liquid ones, like water and glycerin. Dryer ingredients follow.

The last additions to the toothpaste mix are flavours, colours and detergents. Detergents are mixed slowly, so as to minimise foaming.

How do you make Toothpaste in Tubes?

January 1956: Packing toothpaste at the Gleem factory in Newcastle. (Photo: hurston Hopkins/Picture Post/Hulton Archive via Getty Images)

Toothpaste tubes are checked and cleaned, undergoing a stringent blowing and vacuuming process to remove all dust and other particles. Then, the tops are sealed, leaving the bottom of the tube ready for filling.

Paste and tube unite via a specialist filling machine. This machine rotates the tubes into place, before it pumps the paste into each individual tube from above as they pass on a conveyor belt.

Ever wondered how they add the coloured stripes to some toothpastes? Firstly, the different colours are made in separate batches, with the appropriate colouring agents added. And they are kept separate right up to the point where they meet in the tube. The machines used in these processes will thus have different nozzles for each colour, and inject all of them simultaneously.

How is Toothpaste Produced? Packaging

Happy little girl brushing her teeth in the bathroom (Photo: Insung Jeon via Getty Images)

Filled tubes are stamped with their manufacturing date and location and branded. Once they undergo final checks, they can be boxed up and shipped.

And that’s that. The answer to “how is toothpaste made” from start to finish. Hopefully it’s brought a smile to your face. Happy brushing!


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