When you think of New Orleans, you may think of Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, jazz festivals, jambalaya, and kitschy metallic-colored strings of beads, but probably not dental floss. However, interestingly enough, New Orleans is also the birthplace of this wonderful marvel of modern dentistry.
Back in 1815, a dentist named Levi Spear from New Orleans gave his patients the dental advice of using silk thread to clean between their teeth. Dr. Spear is credited for inventing what we know today as dental floss. However, dental floss would not be commercially available until 1882 when a company called Codman and Shurfet began manufacturing unwaxed silk floss.
Unbeknownst to these early innovators is how important flossing on a regular basis really is not only to tooth health but also to a person’s overall health. Current dental advice you may hear over and over again is that flossing is just as important as brushing, but studies suggest that a very large number of people may brush their teeth but still forgo flossing them.
The reason flossing is so important to tooth health is that while brushing may clean the surfaces of teeth, a tooth brush cannot reach the tight spaces between the teeth where bits of food and bacteria build up. This bacteria and its by-products turn into a sticky substance called plaque in as soon as 26 hours, which then hardens into tartar, a dental calculus which is mineralized onto the teeth and very difficult to remove.
After your teeth have tartar, it only gets worse from there. Not flossing will lead you through a downward spiral of the breakdown of your tooth enamel; horrible breath due to tooth decay and cavities; and gingivitis. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and depicts red and swollen gums. As the tarter and bacteria increase between the teeth and under the gums, periodontitis or severe gum disease then occurs. It causes bone and tooth loss and is also characterized by extreme gum inflammation.
Breaking up with a significant other can break your heart – but now flossing your teeth can as well. The quickest way to a man’s (or woman’s) heart is not through the stomach but through the mouth since harmful bacteria that flourish there have a direct path to a person’s circulatory system. This bacteria causes heart disease, respiratory illnesses and even diabetes.
Since the leading cause of death in America is heart disease, and more and more Americans are getting diabetes as each year goes by, making sure to floss is not only great dental advice, it is also great advice for living well. It only takes a few minutes each day and can help achieve better overall health to live a higher quality of life. Flossing and tooth health are synonymous with living a great life.