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The Origin of Dental Floss

For decades, dentists have urged patients to practice daily flossing; however, only about 12% of Americans actually floss on a daily basis. Surprisingly the concept of flossing has been around for centuries; research has even shown evidence of Prehistoric dental flossing practices. So with such a vast history, why do most adults still neglect to floss their teeth? We may never know. But, here are some facts you should know about dental floss and how it came to be:

The Dental Floss Timeline

Prehistoric – Although an exact date has not been determined, researchers have found evidence that flossing was practiced even in prehistoric times. Teeth from prehistoric humans have shown signs of grooves left by flossing and/or toothpicks. It is believed that horsehair was used as a floss and twigs were often used as toothpicks. This allowed prehistoric humans to remove any debris in their teeth.

1815 – In 1815, an American dentist, Dr. Levi Spear Parmly introduced the world to the idea of using silk thread which was waxed as a form of dental floss. He also published the book, A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth, which discussed his belief on the importance of not only brushing daily but also flossing.

1882 – In 1882, the Codman and Shurleft Company began mass-producing un-waxed silk floss.

1898 – In 1898, Johnson & Johnson was granted the first patent for dental floss.

1940s – During World War II, the cost of silk began to rise. As a result, Dr. Charles Bass developed nylon as the replacement for dental floss. He is also responsible for making floss an essential part of oral hygiene techniques.

Dental Floss Today

Since the beginning of dental floss, it has evolved quite a bit over time. From horsehair to silk, new dental floss advances are made each year. We have seen Gore-Tex, spongy floss, and even soft floss. Floss picks have also become more popular, allowing for easier flossing. The most recent advancement in floss is now the water flosser, which is essentially a device used to shoot small jets of water in-between teeth to flush out debris.

Do You Need Dental Insurance?

Your health insurance may cover a lot, but chances are, your teeth are not included. That can be problematic, since dental costs can add up quickly when a check-up takes a wrong turn: a necessary crown may cost up to $1,500, a root canal to save a severely damaged tooth may range from $300 to $1,000. So should you prepare yourself for such instances by getting dental insurance? There are several things to consider in answering this question.

Health Insurance vs. Dental Insurance

First off, it should be noted that dental insurance works a little differently from your regular health insurance. With regular health costs, you pay your deductible and then a significantly smaller portion of the bill. With dental insurance, you receive coverage up to a certain amount. Once you’ve reached that maximum, you either have to wait until the next year to continue getting dental work done or pay for it out of pocket.

Is Dental Insurance Cost-Effective?

So, is it cost effective for you to get dental insurance, either for just yourself or for you and your family? Plans may range from $12-50 per person, per month, to yearly fees of $75-100 per person. For most people, the cost will be $50 per month, coming out to be $600 a year. With standard cleanings and exams (including x-rays) running around $400 a year (which includes two visits to the dentist), buying insurance at that rate would mean that you’re losing money to the tune of about $200 a year.

But what if you know you’ll need to get work done? Unfortunately, most dental insurance plans have very low annual maximums – around $1,000. This means that, if your bill exceeds that $1,000, it’s up to you to cover it out of pocket. Also, chances are you won’t be able to get insurance only when you anticipate a dental problem occurring, since most insurance companies have waiting periods between the time of purchase and the time that you’re allowed to actually use it.

Group plans may sound like a good idea, but when it comes to dental insurance, that might not be the case. If your employer offers dental insurance, make sure to do the math to know that the cost makes sense for you and your family. If it doesn’t, you may as well just pay those expenses on your own.

Benefits of Dental Insurance

One situation where it could actually be beneficial to have dental insurance is if you are living paycheck to paycheck with little to no money saved. In that instance, when it comes to emergencies, it might come out to be more prudent for you to pay for the dental insurance as the alternative would be to put the dental work on a credit card that you may struggle to pay off.

Purchasing dental insurance requires careful consideration, but in the end, the best way to save money when it comes to your dental health may be as simple as healthy dental habits and preventative care.

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