There are many different types of floss on the market: waxed, unwaxed, flavored, unflavored, etc. But no matter what type you use, they are all effective tools at cleaning between your teeth and keeping your mouth healthy. People have been using floss since ancient times, and they also had to pick from a wide variety of floss types. Here are some of the materials that have been used for floss throughout history.
We generally don’t think of animal hair as a hygienic substance you would wish to put in your mouth, but people have used it throughout history for toothbrush bristles and floss. Archaeologists believe that our prehistoric ancestors used hair from a horse’s tails to clean between their teeth.
In 1815, American dentist Levi Spear Parmly introduced the idea of cleaning in between teeth with a waxed silk thread. A company named Codman and Shurtleft would first mass-produce dental floss in 1882, also using silk. When the Johnson & Johnson company gained a patent for floss sixteen years later, they made theirs from the same silk threads doctors used to make stitches.
During World War II, silk became an expensive commodity. As a result, Dr. Charles Bass created a floss from the elastic, durable nylon material. Nylon soon proved to be a more effective flossing material than silk because it didn’t fray as easily.