Walk into any drugstore and you’ll find an array of dental floss from unwaxed to waxed to dental tape to floss that uses high-tech Gore-Tex fabric. The varied and interesting choices cater to different dental needs. Dental floss has become sophisticated and a viable tool to maintain oral health. It has come a long way. A look at the history of dental floss will give us more appreciation for this humble string of sorts.
Archaeological records show that as early as prehistoric days, men had found the need to dislodge food particles from their teeth. Their teeth contained grooves consistent with those who used dental tools. In most likelihood, horse hair was used as floss and twigs as toothpicks. A recent research on Cova Foradà Neanderthal fossil shows toothpicks were used to mitigate pain caused by periodontal disease.
However, it wasn’t until 1815 that an American dentist from New Orleans, Dr. Levi Spear Parmly (lovingly nicknamed the Apostle of oral hygiene), saw the importance of flossing teeth and introduced the idea of using waxed silken thread. In his book, A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth, he emphasized the importance of brushing and flossing the teeth daily. With that, the modern-day dental floss was born.
In 1882, some sixty-seven years later, Codman and Shurtleft Company, saw potential and mass produced dental floss using unwaxed silk. Carrying yards of dental floss around can be cumbersome and in the 1870s, Asahel Shurtleff developed the first portable dental floss dispenser using a spool of thread with a U-shaped prong sticking out of its side. In 1898, Johnson and Johnson secured the first patent for dental floss made with the same material used in silk stitches.
Silk dental floss tends to shred easily and with the dwindling supply of silk during the Second World War (1940s), Dr. Charles Bass, a medical doctor and researcher (aka Father of Preventive Dentistry) developed a dental floss made of nylon with higher resistance to shredding. In the same decade, waxed floss and dental tape appeared on the scene.
The 1980s saw the invention of interdental brush as an alternative to dental flossing.
As time goes by and technology becomes more advanced, dental floss has undergone many changes to make flossing a more pleasant experience. Flossing continues to be one of the key elements of good oral health and the American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day.
In addition to daily brushing and flossing, regular dental checkups are essential to maintain good oral health. Call us today for your dental needs.