The Origin of Dental Floss

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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.