The History of Floss

When was floss first created? What materials have people used for floss? How has floss changed over time? Take a look at the timeline below to learn the answers to these questions.


Our prehistoric ancestors first cleaned between their teeth using toothpicks and a floss made from the hair of a horse’s tail.


New Orleans’ dentist Levi Spear Parmly started to tell his patients to clean between their teeth using a waxed silk thread. When he later published his book, A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth, he promoted flossing as part of a daily hygiene routine. Dr. Levi Spear Parmly would later be known as “the apostle of dental hygiene.”


The Codman and Shurtleft company became the first to mass-produce an unwaxed silk floss for the public.


The Johnson & Johnson company started to make their own dental floss.


The Johnson & Johnson company took out the first patent for floss, using the same materials doctors used to make sutures.

THE 1940’S

Because silk had become expensive during World War II, Dr. Charles Bass created a nylon floss. This material proved optimal since it was both elastic and durable. Charles Bass would later be known as “the father of preventive dentistry.”