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In addition to brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing is a critical part of good dental hygiene. Flossing allows you to break up plaque and tiny food debris from hard to reach places between your teeth. But when was floss invented? And why? 

Prehistoric Era

According to anthropologists, flossing dates back as early as the prehistoric era. Ancient people would use strands of horsehair as floss or small twigs as toothpicks to dislodge food from between their teeth. 

19th Century

In 1815, New Orleans dentist Dr. Levi Spear Parmly recommended to his patients that they use silk thread to “floss” between their teeth. He later published a book titled A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth that discussed the benefits of using floss as part of regular dental hygiene. 

However, people didn’t take to his idea right away. Many people preferred using toothpicks, as the idea of putting their hands in their mouth to pull a thread through their teeth wasn’t ideal.

In 1882, flossing started to catch on. The Codman and Shurtleff Company in Randolph, Massachusetts started making an unwaxed silk dental floss. Fourteen years later, flossing would become a normal part of dental hygiene after Johnson & Johnson created a patent for dental floss in 1896. 

Evolution of Dental Floss

Once dental floss became a practice of the masses in the late 19th century, several improvements were made to make flossing more effective. In the 1940s, the cost of silk increased significantly. Silk was eventually replaced with Nylon, which was more durable and cheaper than silk. Additionally, nylon is more resistant and less prone to shredding, a significant improvement to the silk version.

The invention of nylon floss paved the way for manufacturers to create unwaxed floss later in the 1940s and dental tape in the 1950s. 

Dental Floss Today

Over the past few decades, dental floss has continued to evolve. Today, dental floss is made in a variety of textures, materials, and even flavors. New features have also been introduced to flossing to make it even easier. Some dental floss has stiffened ends to help people in braces or with other dental appliances clean between their teeth. There are even dental picks available for those who hate flossing.

The Importance of Flossing

To keep your teeth healthy and reduce the chance of gum disease, it’s important to floss every day. You should also schedule regular cleanings with your dentist. At South Temple Dental, we’re proud to provide thorough teeth cleanings for all our patients. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!