The history of dental floss

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January 26th, 2017

We all know dental floss, that ever-important tool to cleaning mouths of bacteria, plaque and other build-up. But did you ever wonder how it came to be?

In 1815, a New Orleans dentist advised his patients to use a silk thread to clean between their teeth – giving us our first version of dental floss.

  • In 1882, Codman and Shurtleft began manufacturing the first commercial dental floss from unwaxed silk.
  • In the 1940s, due to the rising costs of World War II, nylon replaced silk as the material of choice for dental floss in the United States.
  • James B. Kirby, also known as the inventor of the Kirby vacuum, created the first floss pick in 1963. The floss pick is a Y-shaped angled dental tool that doubles as a toothpick and dental floss.
  • In 1994, an inmate managed to escape from jail by weaving dental floss into a rope as thick as a telephone cord.
  • Today, dental floss is most often made from a combination of rubber and plastic which is coated in wax.
The History of floss article