Do you know how she got a clean start?
Just Joking. It's quite likely that great great great grandma didn't start her day by brushing her teeth. In fact, that whole thing about brushing your teeth twice a day didn't really take off until soldiers returned from WWII and shared military hygiene practices with their families.
However, back in the day she might have used charcoal toothpaste from time to time, or one of the other forms of dentifrices that often contained things like: baking soda, chalk, orris root, pumice, talc, cuttle fish bone, soap, myrrh, benzoin, sugar, flavorings, & colorants.
The toothpaste tutorial I'm sharing today is part of my "Victorian Vanities" presentation, (read about it here), and is made from an 1893 recipe taken from The Era Formulary 5000 Formulas for Druggist. Back in the day, the book sold for $5. Today, you can find a digital copy free on Google books. In case you want to look it up it is formula 1312 on p. 125.
Charcoal Tooth Paste
powdered charcoal 16 ounces
powdered orris root 16 ounces
Precipitated chalk 32 ounces
glycerin to proper consistency
Since I only wanted a sample and not a vat of "historic" toothpaste, I reduced the recipe significantly. I'm not sure I'll ever want to actually use this stuff, but if you do, it is dead easy to make. Just measure, mix and mix again. I take no responsibility for the outcome, but I'd love to see pictures and hear about it.
Doesn't that just look scruptious?