Oh, where would we be without dental floss? That tiny roll of teeth saving, breath rescuing filament has saved humanity from tooth decay and gingivitis. This modern miracle started life non-descript enough but it didn’t take long to rise to the state of household necessity. The history and facts that accompany the life and times of dental floss is nothing short of fascinating.
The Invention of Dental Floss
An American dentist from New Orleans, Louisiana, Dr. Levi Spear Parmly, is said to have invented the first use of dental floss. It was the early 1800’s and not everyone could afford a toothbrush. People have been using makeshift dental tools since prehistoric ages but the first mass produced toothbrushes came out in 1780 in Europe.
The best way to clean your teeth in those days was to rub a combination of soot and salt on the teeth with a rag. In 1882 the Codman and Shurtleft Company from Massachusetts began to manufacture and sell rolls of unwaxed silken thread. In 1898 Johnson and Johnson patented a design using thread used in injury stitches in hospitals. While the first dental floss was silken threads, the 1940s brought more changes to dental floss, with nylon beginning to replace silk because of its tendency not to shred.
Dental Floss Today
Since its humble beginnings demand has grown. If all the dental floss sold in the USA in a single year were placed end to end, it would stretch 3 million miles. The average person uses 122 yards of dental floss every year. Not flossing keeps 35% of tooth surfaces uncleaned and using dental floss every day can ward off heart disease. The plaque that dental floss removes holds more than 300 different species of bacteria. Enamel of the teeth is the hardest substance in the body but without brushing and dental floss tiny bacteria can destroy it.
Modern floss comes in a variety of sizes, with wider sizes available for people with bridgework and spaces in between their teeth. Waxing floss makes it easier to slide through teeth, especially when they are close together. Women floss more than men do. Even though only about half of Americans floss at all, most of them are women. Even if you forget to floss a few times a week, some flossing is better than no flossing. Men seem to feel that water picks are an adequate replacement for flossing but this is not true.
Most people, 73% actually, hate flossing so much they would rather go to the grocery store. Americans also spend approximately $2 billion each year on dental care items compared to $100 billion per year spent on hair care products.
There’s no doubt about it, not only should flossing play an important part in your dental care regimen but it also has quite an interesting history. Use it to your advantage to develop a stronger, healthier and brighter smile.