History of Dental Floss

Dental floss is a common cleaning tool used by modern people. Although prehistoric humans have had the experience of getting food stuck in their teeth and the need for clean tooth gaps, they have only had some very rough and rough tools made of branches and horse hair. Nowadays, the modern floss that we can buy is convenient and comfortable. It has only been two centuries since its birth.

1.Dentist’s guess

In 1790, Levi Spear Parmly was born into a peasant family in Vermont, USA, the largest of nine children in the family. Although there are many children in the family and life is hard, the Pamley family always pays attention to the education of the children. Today, people only remember the name of Levi, but in fact, four of their five brothers grew up to become respectable dentists.

When he was 22 years old, Pamley moved to Boston to study dentistry. After graduated, he practiced medicine in various parts of the United States. He even went to Canada and Europe for further study. He was not only experienced but also very knowledgeable.

He thinked that the main cause of tooth decay is caused by the decay of food debris. Although this is common sense for us, at the time, this conjecture was not accepted by most of people. What we must understand is that Pamley is still very backward. The dentists used metal tin to fill the cavity, made ivory dentures, and saw the patient’s teeth smashed with a saw.

Pamley actively promoted the use of cleaning tools for teeth, including toothbrushes, toothpicks and tongue scrapers, and attempted to develop a better tool.

2.Waxed thread

The result was really found by him. Pamley found that waxed silk can easily remove food residue between the teeth. Why use silk? Because ordinary household sewing threads are not strong enough to withstand the wear and tear between human teeth, silk floss is very strong and durable. Why add wax to the floss? This is because it is convenient for the floss to slide into the teeth, which is very suitable for people who are not familiar with dental floss and techniques.
Compared with toothpicks, dental floss can penetrate deep into the teeth without damaging the teeth; it can also adhere to the surface of the teeth, effectively removing the residue from the teeth and the plaque on the adjacent side of the teeth. When the floss rubs on the tooth surface to produce a "click" sound, it means that it has been scraped.
In 1815, the 25-year-old Pamley took these waxy floss in a small box and began to promote the new tool to his patients. In 1819 he published a book "A Practical Guide to the Management of the Teeth", in which he wrote: "Floss can pass through the gaps in the teeth, removing irritating substances that the brush can't remove. They are the real source of disease. Every day flossing, teeth and gums will become very healthy. There will not be that kind of rotten stench out when you breath."

Floss can penetrate the interdental friction 


Pamley's own teeth are very beautiful, and he is a philanthropist who is gentle, donated to build a school, and provides free dental care for children in orphanages, so his reputation is great.
But unfortunately, despite his fame and high prestige, his revolutionary dental science research was not widely accepted. He expected the patients to listen to his advice, but the result was disappointing. Most people simply can't understand the meaning of cleaning teeth. They even think that it is normal for teeth to rot and fall off.
The reason is very simple, and Pamley's point of view is too advanced. In 1878, the first research article on oral microbes appeared in the world, and more than 60 years ago, Pamley knew in advance to remove plaque from the teeth!
In 1882, a medical equipment company in Massachusetts began to produce dental floss. Their floss is still silky, but it is unwaxed. Although it is more difficult to use, it is more frictional and easier to remove stubborn.
However, at this time, the dental floss has not been widely promoted. The reason is also very simple: silk is really too expensive. What's more, dental floss is a one-time consumable, and there are very few people who can afford it and are willing to use it.

4.Floss evolution

The real change of this situation is Johnson & Johnson.
Since 1887, Johnson & Johnson has started making floss with a large number of sterile sutures they purchased. The texture of this floss is still silk, but under large-scale purchases, the price becomes cheaper. Coupled with the strength of Johnson & Johnson, it can set up display counters in various pharmacies and hire pharmacists to promote the floss.
By July 1898, Johnson & Johnson had launched a portable floss set. In a battery-sized metal can, it has a small amount of entangled floss and is equipped with a small metal serrated piece for easy cutting. The overwhelming publicity, plus the product is really convenient and easy to use, just like this, the dental floss has been gradually promoted.

5.1906 Portable Flossing Advertising

In 1941, during the Second World War, due to the need to use a large amount of silk to make parachutes, Johnson & Johnson switched to nylon to make floss, and later invented a convenient floss stick, so we have the teeth we can buy today. Line up.
Johnson & Johnson nylon floss produced during World War II (Johnson & Johnson)

Today, the use of dental floss is already very common in many countries. This kind of luxury goods of the year has become an indispensable necessities for people's home travel. Flossing the teeth to self-cleaning after meals, just like people washing their hands before meals, mouthwashing after meals, becomes an indispensable procedure in daily life. If Pamley can predict how big the fans of floss today are, he will be gratified!