Pepsodent Tooth Powder
From the collection of: Allee Willis

This “giant”(all 4 1/2″ of it!) can of tooth powder was all the rage in the 1940’s and 50’s when the jingle, “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent!” flooded tv and radio waves. Pepsodent was famous for its powerful whitening ingredients, “I.M.P.” and Irium, but in 1994, then-FCC chairman Reed Hundt claimed that there was actually no Irium in the product at all. Despite this, the popular jingle and mere promise of whiter teeth made Pepsodent a huge success and the first product that used “radio as a medium for gathering listeners for the purpose of advertising to them”.

Arrogance on the part of Lever Bros., the company that manufactured Pepsodent, actually stopped the tooth policing agent in its tracks. Confident that the non existent Irium insured its proliferation, the company was very slow to add fluoride to the formula. Other brands like Crest, Gleem and Colgate took over the market until Pepsodent was relegated to discount stores, bargain bins and buyers with terminal yellow teeth.

But in its heyday decades earlier Pepsodent ruled, even included in popular song lyrics. From South Pacific: “Bloody Mary’s chewing betel nuts/ And she don’t use Pepsodent” (where’s the rhyme??). And in Cole Porter’s “You’re The Top”: “You’re the basic grand of a lady and a gent, You’re an old Dutch master, you’re Mrs. Astor, you’re Pepsodent.” (excellent rhyme).

1950’s commercial – See where the yellow went: