logo - Join me in the 1900s mid C20th
The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Cleaning teeth
in 1940s England

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Advert for Gibbs Dentifrice toothpaste in a 1943 magazine

Advert for Gibbs Dentifrice in a 1943 magazine, Photographed in Dinefwr Park House

I was a young child when the events and observations of these recollections occurred. (There is also a page on cleaning teeth in the early 1900s.)

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Cake-style toothpaste in a tin

For cleaning our teeth, we had a solid pink 'cake' of substance in a red, green or blue tin - our choice of colour, although there was no difference in the contents.

The toothpaste was known as Gibbs Dentifrice. We rubbed a wet toothbrush into it to make it froth, then used the frothy toothbrush to brush and our teeth. Then we rinsed out with water. I suppose it must have been dreadfully unhygienic because everyone in a family rubbed their toothbrushes over the same cake of dentifrice. However, teeth certainly felt clean afterwards. I never heard of dental floss, although the occasional use of a length of cotton came in handy at times.

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Cream-style toothpaste in a tube

Tube of ointment made of metal, just like an old toothpaste tube showing the creases in the tube and how the end has to be rolled up to squeeze out the contents

Tube of ointment made of metal, just like an old toothpaste tube, showing the creases in the tube and how the end has to be rolled up to squeeze out the contents. These tubes often split through so much squeezing, letting the contents ooze out.

Later we graduated to toothpaste in a tube, but the tube of course was metal not plastic. When squeezed, it folded into tight ridges that couldn't be smoothed out and sometimes cracked so that the contents oozed out. The best way of getting all the toothpaste out was to roll the tube up to its end. Once rolled, being metal, unlike plastic, it stayed in position.

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Common toothpaste brands

Advert for SR toothpaste in a 1943 magazine

Advert for SR toothpaste in a 1943 magazine, Photographed in Dinefwr Park House

Advert for Kolynos toothpaste in a 1943 magazine

Advert for Kolynos toothpaste in a 1943 magazine, Photographed in Dinefwr Park House

All the toothpastes shown in the adverts were household names.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.