The Evolution of Dental Floss

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illustration of dental floss

Every dentist will tell you that the two things you need to have to improve your oral health are a toothbrush and dental floss. Dental floss allows you to easily remove plaque and food particles from those tight, hard-to-reach places between your teeth. But how and when exactly was it invented?

Prehistoric Times

The origin of dental floss traces back to prehistory, when prehistoric humans would use horse hair and twigs to remove particles from in between their teeth.

The 19th Century

Dental floss wasn’t a widely used product until 1815, when Dr. Levi Spear Parmly, a dentist from New Orleans, invented a thin, waxen silk thread to help his patients clean between their teeth. He even emphasized the importance of flossing in a book called A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth.

The idea began to catch on, and in 1882, the Codman and Shurtleft Company began to manufacture unwaxed silk dental floss. Sixteen years later, Johnson and Johnson earned a patent for dental floss, introducing it to the masses.

The 20th Century

In the 1940s, silk floss was phased out and replaced with nylon floss, which is cheaper and more durable. It paved the way for the invention of waxed floss and dental tape a few years later.

Modern Dental Floss

Today, a variety of dental flosses exist on the market, boasting many textures, materials, and even flavors. There are also flosses that are easy to use with dental appliances such as braces. For those that think using traditional dental floss is too fussy, there are dental picks available for purchase nowadays too.

Why Floss?

Flossing is necessary to remove plaque and other debris that a toothbrush can’t reach from between your teeth. Not flossing can cause a buildup of bacteria that can wear down tooth enamel and lead to gum disease.

In addition to flossing, it’s important to schedule routine cleanings with your dentist. At Signature Smiles Dental, we’d be happy to help you and your family maintain optimal oral health.

Contact us to schedule an appointment!

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