Do you think dental floss is a modern invention or that it’s been around for a while? If you guessed the latter, you are correct. People have used string and other tools to dislodge food from their teeth for thousands of years. However, the invention of modern dental floss didn’t occur until 1819.
In that year, a New Orleans dentist Levi Spear Parmly published a book called “A Practical Guide to the Management of the Teeth.” He recommended that people use a waxed silk thread to dislodge food from their teeth that toothbrushes couldn’t remove.
But it wasn’t until 1874 that dental floss was first patented. Asahel M. Shurtleff developed “an improved pocket thread carrier and cutter,” which resembled modern floss packages. In 1882, Shurtleff’s company also began to provide unwaxed silk floss for home use.
In 1896, Johnson & Johnson produced their first dental floss, which was made from the same silk material that doctors used for silk stitches.
Even though dental floss was available, it wasn’t popular right away. At that time, professional dentistry was still a new field. Plus, silk thread was expensive for people to buy. It wasn’t until after World War II that flossing became more common.
During the World War II, the Japanese cut off the supply of silk to the U.S. That’s when Dr. Charles C. Bass created dental floss using nylon. Nylon was also used as a substitute for silk in parachutes. Nylon was an improvement over silk since it had a consistent texture and it didn’t shred as easily. And it was cheaper to buy.
Today, nylon is still a popular fiber choice for dental floss in Hendricks County and elsewhere. But floss can also be made of materials like Teflon or Gore-Tex. Varieties of dental floss include: flavored or unflavored, and waxed or unwaxed.

What Is the Proper Way to Floss?

With traditional floss, you should pull about 18 inches of floss from the container. Gently wrap each end of the floss around the middle finger of each hand. Use your index fingers and thumbs to curve the floss against the side of each tooth, making a “C” shape. Gently wipe the tooth from below the gum line to the tip with the floss several times. Wipe as much of the surface of each tooth with the floss as possible. Don’t just run the floss through your teeth. That doesn’t effectively clean them.
If it’s too hard to use traditional floss, you can use a floss pick, which is like a plastic wand with a small piece of floss attached to it. Again, make sure you wipe the surface of your teeth as much as possible with the floss.

How Often Should You Floss?

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you floss your teeth thoroughly at least once a day. Unfortunately, studies show only about 10% of Americans (including Hendricks County residents) floss daily. But flossing is an essential part of good dental health. When used with tooth brushing, flossing can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.

What Else Should You Do to Take Care of Your Teeth?

The ADA urges you to brush your teeth twice daily and regularly use a mouthwash to maintain good oral health. Plus, you should visit Dr. Jon Erickson at Danville Family Dentistry twice a year for an oral exam and professional cleaning. To schedule an appointment at our Hendricks County office, call us today at 317-745-4400.
By taking care of your teeth, you help ensure you have a beautiful smile for years to come.
Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.