Flossing is a dental hygiene practice that involves using a thin, flexible strand of material to clean between teeth and remove food particles and plaque from areas that a toothbrush cannot reach. The most common material used for flossing is nylon, which can be waxed or unwaxed and comes in a variety of flavors.
The first patent for dental floss was issued in 1874 to Levi Spear Parmly, a dentist who advocated for the use of a waxed silk thread to remove plaque and food particles from between teeth. Parmly believed that flossing was essential for good oral health, and his invention was the precursor to the dental floss we use today. Prior to this, people used a variety of materials to clean their teeth, including twigs, feathers, and animal hair.
Floss was originally made from silk thread, which was strong and thin enough to fit between teeth, but could also shred and leave fibers behind. Today, most dental floss is made from nylon, which is more durable and less likely to break or fray. Some types of floss are also coated with wax, which can make them easier to slide between teeth and reduce the risk of injury to gums.
Americans spend over $2 billion a year on dental floss, according to a survey by Statista. This includes purchases of traditional dental floss, as well as interdental brushes, water flossers, and other oral hygiene products. Despite the popularity of flossing, some studies suggest that it may not be necessary for everyone, and that other methods of cleaning between teeth may be just as effective.
The most common time people floss is right before bed, according to a survey by the American Dental Association. This is because flossing can help remove food particles and bacteria that can cause bad breath and contribute to tooth decay overnight. Some people also choose to floss after meals, especially if they have eaten foods that are prone to getting stuck between teeth, such as popcorn or fibrous fruits and vegetables.
One study found that only 30% of Americans floss daily, despite the fact that the American Dental Association recommends daily flossing. This may be due to a lack of understanding of the benefits of flossing, as well as misconceptions about how to floss properly. Many people also find flossing to be difficult or uncomfortable, which can make it harder to stick to a daily flossing routine.
The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day to help remove plaque and bacteria from between teeth. Flossing can also help prevent gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss and other health problems. People who have braces, dental implants, or other dental appliances may need to floss more frequently to ensure that food and bacteria do not become trapped in these devices.
Dental floss was originally marketed as “Silk Floss” by Johnson & Johnson in 1898. The product was marketed as a luxury item, and was sold in a small metal box that could be refilled with new spools of floss. Today, dental floss is widely available in a variety of forms, including waxed and unwaxed, flavored and unflavored, and with different thicknesses to accommodate different tooth spacing.
The first disposable dental floss, called “Dentotape,” was introduced in 1956. This floss was thicker than traditional floss, and was designed to be more durable and effective at removing plaque. Other innovations in floss technology have included the introduction of flavored floss, which can make flossing more pleasant, and the development of floss picks, which are disposable plastic tools that make it easier to reach between teeth.
In 1994, the first interdental brush was developed, providing an alternative to traditional dental floss. Interdental brushes are small, cone-shaped brushes that can be used to clean between teeth and remove plaque and bacteria. They are particularly useful for people with wide gaps between teeth, or for those who find traditional flossing difficult.
Flossing can help prevent gum disease, cavities, and bad breath by removing food particles and bacteria from between teeth. It can also help remove plaque, which can harden into tartar and lead to more serious dental problems. Some studies have suggested that flossing may also have benefits for overall health, such as reducing the risk of heart disease by preventing the buildup of plaque in arteries.
Dental floss was once used as a type of surgical thread before being adopted for oral hygiene. This was because the thin, strong thread was ideal for closing wounds and suturing incisions. Today, floss is still sometimes used for this purpose, particularly in developing countries where medical supplies are scarce.
Flossing can remove up to 80% of plaque from teeth, according to the American Dental Association. This is because flossing can reach areas that a toothbrush cannot, such as the spaces between teeth and under the gumline. Regular flossing can also help prevent the development of gingivitis, which is an early stage of gum disease that can lead to more serious dental problems if left untreated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends flossing in addition to brushing for optimal oral health. According to the CDC, flossing can help prevent gum disease and tooth decay, which are two of the most common dental problems in the United States. Flossing can also help remove plaque and bacteria that can contribute to bad breath.
Flossing has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing the buildup of plaque in arteries. This is because the bacteria that can cause gum disease can also contribute to inflammation throughout the body, which is a risk factor for heart disease. By removing bacteria and reducing inflammation in the mouth, flossing may help reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic health conditions.
The correct way to floss is to gently guide the floss between teeth, making sure to get below the gumline. Then, use a back-and-forth motion to remove plaque and debris from the tooth surface. It is important not to snap the floss between teeth, as this can cause injury to the gums. For people with braces or other dental appliances, special tools such as floss threaders or interdental brushes may be necessary to properly clean between teeth and appliances.
Flossing can help prevent halitosis, or bad breath, by removing bacteria and food particles from the mouth. Bad breath can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor oral hygiene, certain foods, and medical conditions such as gum disease or dry mouth. Flossing in addition to brushing and using mouthwash can help keep breath fresh and improve overall oral health.
In 2016, the US Department of Health and Human Services removed flossing from its list of recommended oral hygiene practices. This was based on a review of existing research, which found that there was limited evidence to support the effectiveness of flossing in preventing gum disease and cavities. However, many dental professionals still recommend flossing as part of a comprehensive oral hygiene routine.
Flossing can be especially important for older adults, who may be more prone to gum disease and tooth decay. As people age, the gums may recede and the teeth may become more susceptible to decay, which can make flossing even more essential for maintaining good oral health. For older adults with mobility or dexterity issues, there are special tools and techniques that can make flossing easier.
Flossing can be particularly effective for people with diabetes, who are at increased risk for gum disease and other oral health problems. High blood sugar levels can contribute to inflammation and damage to the blood vessels that supply the gums, which can make it harder for the body to fight off infections. By removing bacteria and plaque from the mouth, flossing can help reduce the risk of gum disease and other complications associated with diabetes.
Flossing can also be beneficial for pregnant women, who are at increased risk for gum disease due to hormonal changes that can make the gums more sensitive and prone to inflammation. Pregnant women who develop gum disease may be at increased risk for preterm labor and other pregnancy complications. By flossing regularly and maintaining good oral hygiene, pregnant women can help reduce their risk of gum disease and other oral health problems.
In addition to traditional dental floss, there are a variety of other tools that can be used to clean between teeth, including water flossers, interdental brushes, and floss picks. Water flossers use a stream of water to remove plaque and food particles from between teeth, while interdental brushes are small brushes that can be used to clean between teeth and around dental appliances. Floss picks are disposable plastic tools that combine a small length of floss with a handle, making it easier to reach between teeth.
Flossing can help prevent tooth decay, which is caused by the buildup of plaque and bacteria on the teeth. When plaque is not removed from the teeth, it can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional. Over time, the acids produced by bacteria in plaque and tartar can eat away at the enamel on the teeth, leading to cavities and other dental problems.
Flossing can be especially important for people with certain medical conditions, such as HIV/AIDS or cancer, which can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of oral infections. These individuals may be more susceptible to gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral health problems, so it is important for them to maintain good oral hygiene, including flossing regularly.
Flossing can also help prevent tooth loss by removing plaque and bacteria from the gums, which can help prevent gum disease. Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss in adults, as it can cause the gums to recede and the teeth to become loose or fall out. By flossing regularly and maintaining good oral hygiene, individuals can help prevent gum disease and preserve their natural teeth.
While flossing may not be a silver bullet for perfect oral health, it can be an important part of a comprehensive oral hygiene routine. Along with brushing twice a day, using mouthwash, and visiting the dentist regularly, flossing can help keep teeth and gums healthy and prevent a variety of oral health problems. By making flossing a habit and using the correct technique, individuals can enjoy the benefits of good oral health throughout their lives.