When you reach for your dental floss—which should be at least once a day, as recommended by your dentist—you probably don’t spend much time thinking about the history of the product. However, food has been getting caught in teeth since people started eating, and humans have been looking for ways to clean between their teeth since then. Here is a quick look at the history of dental floss and how it has changed over the years.
Ancient Dental Floss
There is evidence that ancient people made rudimentary toothbrushes and dental floss, and that dental floss may have been around for longer than brushes. The first way that people performed interdental cleaning appears to have been similar to modern toothpicks. Sharpened sticks were used to dig in between teeth and clean those areas. Eventually, sticks gave way to horsehair. Horsehair is believed to have been used both as dental floss and as bristles for toothbrushes.
Silk Dental Floss
The first introduction of dental floss in its more familiar modern form came in 1815, when a dentist in New Orleans suggested that patients use a waxed thread of silk to floss. This thread could be easily obtained, since it was available on the market for sewing. Dr. Levi Parmly wrote a book on tooth care which suggested that people floss once per day. In 1882, unwaxed silk threads for dental use hit the market, and in 1898, Johnson & Johnson applied for a patent to mass-produce and market floss.
Modern Dental Floss
During World War II, silk because too expensive to use for floss. Dr. Charles Bass suggested nylon be used instead. Today, you can find floss made of a wide range of different materials, in both waxed and non-waxed varieties.
At University Associates in Dentistry, you’ll find only the latest advances in dental technologies, but our dentists still recommend that patients follow Dr. Parlmy’s advice to floss at least once a day. Make an appointment with a general dentist in Chicago by calling (312) 704-5511.