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The History of Dental Floss

The History of Dental Floss 

Today, flossing is a hallmark of good oral hygiene and health. But it wasn’t always like that. You may be surprised to know how flossing became so important.

Flossing: An Age-Old Concept

While the exact beginnings of flossing remain largely unknown, we have always had the problem of occasional food stuck in our teeth requiring the use of an interdental cleaner. Some discoveries have been made suggesting that cleaning between the teeth dates back to the Prehistoric period!

 Even some species of monkeys use a flossing technique! This is most commonly observed in Thailand. Long-tailed macaque monkeys have been observed using hair pulled from human visitors to use as floss. Additionally, coconut fibers and twigs have also been used. Mothers even teach their young how to floss properly!

The Leading Dentist to Recommend Flossing

The floss we know today was developed around 200 years ago. An American dentist in 1815 named Levi Spear Parmly introduced waxen silk thread as floss. Parmly’s book, “A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth” states that the silk thread should be run through the “interstices of the teeth” in order to remove the food debris stuck between the teeth.

Unfortunately, flossing didn’t become a big hit instantly. In the Victorian Era, many people still preferred toothpicks. Many wealthy men of that time period, including Charles Dickens, had a retractable ivory toothpick engraved with their initials. Elegant!

Eventually, Flossing Became Popular

Mid-20th century is when flossing became more widespread. “The Father of Preventative Dentistry”, also known as Dr. Charles C. Bass developed nylon floss during World War II.  It was noted that the nylon floss had more elasticity and durability than the silk thread. By the time the war ended, floss had become standard.

Keep Up The Flossing!

Most floss today is still made out of nylon. Better yet, there are now several different options such as waxed floss, woven floss, or dental tape. There is even specialized floss like the pre-threaded floss picks or floss threaders for patients in orthodontia as well as devices that use air or water to floss!

No matter what you use to floss, the important thing is that you are flossing! Proper daily flossing can make a huge impact on your oral health. After all, it is the easiest way to prevent tooth decay.

We urge all our patients to keep up the good work and floss on!

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* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.