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When was dental floss first invented? What materials did people use for floss throughout history? Do I really need to floss my teeth? The answer to that last question is yes, you do. But if you want to learn the answers to the other questions, then keep reading.

The Tail Of Floss

Our ancestors in prehistory knew how important it was to maintain excellent oral hygiene, and they did so with toothpicks and floss. Archeologists believe that they used hairs from a horse’s tail to clean between their teeth.

Once Upon A Floss

Though ancient people had a form of floss, it wasn’t commonly thought of as an essential part of oral hygiene until 1815. Dr. Levi Spear Parmly, who is considered by some as the apostle of dental hygiene, first suggested cleaning between teeth with a waxed silk thread.

Wax On, Wax Off

Though Dr. Parmly promoted a waxed floss, the first floss to be mass-produced by Codman and Shurtleft in 1882 was an unwaxed silk variety. Sixteen years later, the Johnson & Johnson company would take out the first patent for dental floss, using the same silk material that doctors used to make sutures.

Parachuting Into Modern Dentistry

Though silk had been used as floss for over a hundred years, it wasn’t very good at flossing because it often frayed during use. When World War II made silk expensive, Dr. Charles Bass created the revolutionary nylon floss. This material was commonly used in parachutes, but people soon discovered that it made excellent floss as well, being both elastic and durable.