Dental floss is one of those things that comes home with you from the dentist and we often don’t think about very much. If we are all very honest with ourselves and our dental hygienists, we will admit to very little flossing. Often the only flossing we do is when something has been stuck in our teeth, like broccoli or bits of steak, and we want to remove the offending piece of food. We dig out the floss that the dentist gave who knows how long ago, we remove the bit of food and go on with our day. We might get the floss out if we make New Year’s Resolution, are trying to make a good impression in a relationship, are showing our kids how it is supposed to be done, or getting ready for the next dentist appointment and don’t want our gums to bleed too bad. Bottom line is we don’t often USE dental floss, let alone think about what it is made of.
The purpose of dental floss is to remove plaque and food debris from in between our teeth. It comes in a variety of colors, flavors, and textures. Some are green, have a minty flavor and are waxed for easy sliding between our teeth. Others are red, taste like cinnamon and are not waxed so as to drag out more plaque with each pass. Whatever brand or variety you like, chances are they are all made basically the same way.
When dental floss was first developed in the late 1800s, it was a thread of silk. It wasn’t terribly popular back then because of the high cost of the silk threads. Today it is usually made of nylon or Teflon, however Oral-B is marketing a new type of floss that stretches and contracts to cover more space when flossing and then contracts to trap the bacteria more effectively in the strands.
Nylon dental floss is one of the more common types out there. Nylon is made into filaments and spun into floss. This helps to give the floss the strength and tear-resistance that it is generally known for. Nylon can be waxed or unwaxed and gets its popularity from being easy to make and seems to be a little more “one size fits all” than other varieties. Nylon dental floss can also be strung on picks and used in holders. Holders are especially useful for people who have a hard time holding the dental floss due to arthritis or other hand/arm problems.
Teflon, also used to make dental floss, is used in an amazing array of products from Gore-Tex to pan coating to bullets. Teflon is a little more controversial because there are some links to problems with Teflon pan coating and some of the manufacturing processes.