Dental floss is a low-tech solution to the age-old problem of bacteria and plaque buildup between teeth. Even with regular brushing and the use of mouthwash, the tightly spaced areas between your teeth cling to bacteria, food particles and plaque like they’re long lost friends. But they aren’t friends at all — plaque and bacteria can be your enamel’s worst enemies! Despite this constant conflict, take courage! Sitting in your bathroom drawer or medicine cabinet is one of the best weapons you have to fight for the long life of your teeth – the humble package of dental floss.
History of a Good Habit
There is nothing like that wonderfully smug feeling you get when your dental hygienist asks if you floss daily, and without hesitation you answer in the affirmative. Daily flossing, along with regular brushing and visits to the Sacramento Dentistry Group, gives your teeth their best possible future. Something as simple as a piece of string, used correctly and with skill, prevents gum disease and tooth decay. How long has this dental aid been around? How much is used each year? Is there anything else you can use it for?
- As long as there has been string and thread, people have used them in an attempt to get particles out from between their teeth. In 1819, a dentist named Levi Spear Parmly introduced a radical new concept in his book A Practical Guide to the Management of the Teeth. He urged his patients to regularly clean between their teeth with waxed silk thread “to dislodge that irritating matter which no brush can remove, and which is the real source of disease.” Until this point, many believed that losing most or all of one’s molars was an inevitable fact of life.
- The invention of a specific product designed expressly for cleaning teeth came along in 1882, when the Codman and Shurtleft Company of Massachusetts marketed an unwaxed dental floss made of silk. Then in 1896 Johnson & Johnson got into the dental floss game, and took out a patent using the same silk that doctors used for stitching wounds. Even with a name much easier to remember than Codman and Shurtleft, Johnson & Johnson’s product did not become popular with the masses. After World War II when nylon thread become widely available and cheaper, dental floss began to be used by the general population.
- It is estimated that each year 3 million miles of dental floss is purchased in North America alone. That’s a lot of floss! It can be the bane of all sorts of sewage systems, for both private homes and municipalities, so keep that floss out of the sewer and in the regular trash. Toss your floss, don’t flush your floss.
- In 1994, inmate Robert Dale Shepard made a rope of dental floss which he used to escape from the South Central Regional Jail in South Charleston, West Virginia. He used seven 100 yard packs of dental floss, and fashioned 48 strands of the mint flavored floss into a braid the width of a telephone cord. Mr. Shepard was caught after 41 days of freedom. Dental floss was thereafter banned in the jail.
- Dental floss can be used for many uses besides cleaning between teeth. Since it’s sterile and kept clean in its container, floss has been used as emergency suture material. It works well to repair plastic webbing in tents, makes a sturdy shoelace replacement, does the work of a clothes line while traveling and makes a nifty tool for slicing through desserts such as mousse and cheesecakes.
You should never go without dental floss! It works, it is reasonably priced and easy to find — from big box warehouse stores to the smallest neighborhood market. Find a style you like, waxed or unwaxed, tape or traditional thread, minty green, cinnamon red or plain old unflavored white floss. The important thing is to use it daily. If you have any questions about floss, how to use it, how often to use it, or if you’re using it correctly, ask the dentists at the Sacramento Dentistry Group during your next appointment. We want you to be a boss when it comes to floss!