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A short history of... Dental Floss

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It by no means has the lengthy history of the toothbrush or toothpaste, but dental floss nevertheless has an interesting story worth delving into. Who ever knew, for example, that dental floss was once made from silk thread originally manufactured for doctors' stitches? Or that floss could be used to escape from prison?

Early history

The first dental floss was reportedly created by New Orleans dentist Levi Spear Parmly in 1819, who advised his patients use a waxen silk thread "to dislodge that irritating matter which no brush can remove". Yet it took another 63 years for dental floss to become a commercially-available product, an unwaxed silk thread manufactured by US Company Codman and Shurtleff, Inc.

Dental floss was finally patented by Johnson & Johnson Corporation in 1898, and manufactured from the same silk material as thread used by doctors to sew stitches. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the twentieth century, floss was not a popular commodity.

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Twentieth century history

Mass production did pick up pace following the introduction of nylon floss during the Second World War, however, as it was discovered that nylon could be produced in far greater quantities.

Todays' flossing habits

Most of us tend to fall into two camps when it comes to flossing our teeth – put simply, we either floss, or we don't. According to the British Dental Association, although 60% of us say we regularly floss, UK sales show that in reality the figure is around 5%. And we're not the only ones who lie about our flossing habits. A US survey released in June this year indicates that around 25% of the population lie to their dentist about how much they floss.

A few flossy facts…

  • In 1994, US prison inmate Robert Shepard managed to escape using dental floss braided into a rope as thick as a telephone cord, lowering himself down an 18-foot wall.
  • Monkeys have been known to use human hair as dental floss.
  • Today, Gore-Tex is used by some brands in the manufacture of dental floss

For more information on how you can improve your every day oral health routine, contact your local Oasis Dental Care today.