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Inside Floss: Little Bits of Picked History

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The documentary, discussed in a recent New York Times article, will examine the tooth-picking habits of western civilization from the Victorian era through the current dental flossers used today. Roma credits the introduction of floss to a dentist named Levi Spear Parmly who encouraged patients to use silk thread to clean their teeth and gum lines, thereby reducing the risk of gum disease and decay. While he considers this the start of an organized flossing advocacy effort, he is equally as quick to point to his footage of a flossing monkey as anecdotal evidence that the activity comes naturally to us.

Child FlossingRoma also explains how toothpicks came to be something of a status symbol among high class Victorian citizens. He describes Charles Dickens? toothpick as, ?inlaid with ivory and engraved with his initials; it retracted into its own handle like a tiny spyglass.? But, it was the widespread availability of cheap and well organized floss that finally brought it to the masses.

Which is why the biggest evolution in floss, in Roma?s estimation, was the patenting of the first dispenser. The New York Times writes, ?In the 1870s, Asahel Shurtleff helped to civilize floss when he patented the first dispenser: a bobbin of thread with a U-shaped prong sticking out of its side. The prong worked like a tiny metal hand, guiding floss between the teeth. His invention anticipated the portable floss holders you can now buy in drugstores.?

Through all the changes and developments though, one thing has remained steady?most people don?t floss. The New York Times, however, reports that the tide may be turning as the percentage of adults flossing on a daily basis has now risen to 49%.

The history of dental floss might make for an interesting factoid or two, but would you ever consider watching an entire documentary dedicated to the subject, or are you a more picky viewer?

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