A Brief History of Dental Floss

TODAY, FLOSSING IS A staple of oral hygiene and health. But have you ever wondered when we started flossing? You might be surprised by the answer. 

Flossing Is An Older Concept Than You Might Think

While we don’t know the exact beginnings of flossing, it looks like as long as food has been getting stuck in our teeth, we’ve used some type of interdental cleaner. Discoveries have been made that suggest cleaning between teeth was practiced as early as the Prehistoric period!

Did you know that even some species of monkeys practice flossing? This has been most prominently observed in Thailand. Long-tailed macaque monkeys have been known to pull out hair from their human visitors and use it as floss! They have also been observed flossing with coconut fibers or twigs. Mothers even take the time to teach their young how to floss properly!

The First Dentist To Recommend Flossing

Floss as we know it today was developed around 200 years ago. In 1815, an American dentist named Levi Spear Parmly introduced the idea of using waxen silk thread as floss. In his book called “A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth,” he stated that the silk thread should be run “through the interstices of the teeth… to dislodge that irritating matter which no brush can remove and which is the real source of disease.”

Unfortunately, flossing didn’t catch on right away. Victorian’s were more interested in toothpicks than putting their hands in their mouths to pull thread through their teeth. Charles Dickens–along with many other wealthy gentlemen of the time–owned a retractable toothpick engraved with his initials and ornamented with ivory. Fancy!

Over Time, Flossing Slowly Gained Popularity

It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that flossing became more widespread. During World War II, Dr. Charles C. Bass, known as “The Father of Preventive Dentistry,” developed nylon floss, noting that it was more elastic and durable than silk. After the war, flossing became much more mainstream.

Keep Up The Good Work And Floss On!

For the most part, floss today is still made of nylon. But now, there are a lot more options than there used to be such as dental tape, waxed floss or woven floss. There are pre-threaded floss picks and floss threaders for orthodontic patients; there are even devices that floss your teeth with water or air!

All in all, it doesn’t much matter what you use to floss, what matters is that you do! Correct daily flossing can make all the difference in your oral health and is one of the simplest ways to prevent tooth decay. So, since human beings have been cleaning between their teeth for centuries, all we have to say is keep up the good work, and floss on!

Thank you for choosing Omni Dental!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Is Chewing Gum Good Or Bad For Your Teeth?

DID YOU KNOW that the average American consumes 1.8 pounds of gum each year? With so much gum going into our mouths it’s important to know how chewing gum affects our dental health. You may have heard that it’s both good and bad for your teeth… so what’s the real answer? Read on to find out!

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What is gum recession?


Gum recession occurs when the gum line recedes to the point where sensitive roots of the teeth are exposed. This leads to increased feelings of sensitivity to cold and sugary foods since the roots are no longer protected by the gums. If left untreated, gum recession can increase the risks of tooth decay and tooth loss. At Omni Dental in Council Bluffs and Carter Lake, we want to help ensure that your gums are at their optimal health.

Causes of Gum Recession

  • Periodontal disease – a serious oral disease arising from poor oral habits
  • Gingivitis – gum disease characterized by bleeding and swollen gums
  • Aging
  • Overly aggressive brushing and/or flossing – brushing hard in a scrubbing fashion will erode gum tissue at the roots of teeth
  • Genetic predisposition to gingival recession – having inherited thin, insufficient gum tissue facilitates gum recession
  • Bruxism – a condition where someone regularly grinds their teeth, usually during sleep
  • Chewing tobacco/smoking – promotes chronically dry mouth and reduced gum health

Periodontal gingivitis can also be the cause of drooping of the gums. This is a different condition in comparison to gum recession. If your dentist diagnoses you with periodontal gingivitis, the recommended solution may be a gingivectomy. A gingivectomy is a process that removes excess gum tissue that has been weakened by bacterial decay. Another option is a gingivoplasty, which reshapes the gums around the teeth. If left untreated, sagging, drooping, and receding gums may be a dangerous enabler of bacteria growth inside of the mouth. Food particles, mucus, and other debris can get caught in the pockets that are left behind. Oral bacteria is responsible for tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, and chronic halitosis.

Treatments for Gum Recession

For the benefit of your health, it’s best to get your gums treated immediately if you notice any issues. It’s possible for your dentist to help reverse the effects of gum recession. One recommendation may be to switch from a hard-bristled toothbrush to a soft-bristled toothbrush that will allow your brushing to be more gentle. We may also recommend improving oral hygiene habits, including brushing after meals, rinsing with mouthwash, and getting regular cleanings every six months.

If you think you may be at risk of gum recession or gingivitis, our team of dental professionals at Omni Dental in Council Bluffs and Carter Lake are here to help. Give us a call today at (888) 860-4886 to reserve an appointment.