Think of New Orleans, Louisiana, and what comes to mind? The sound of jazz pouring out from a nightclub in the French Quarter… the smell of shrimp boiling in a spicy gumbo… the fresh feeling you get after you’ve cleaned between your teeth with dental floss?
You may not know it, but besides its culinary charms and musical mojo, New Orleans has another claim to fame: It’s the historical home of dental floss. In the early 1800’s, a pioneering dentist by the name of Dr. Levi Spear Parmly recommended that his patients clean between their teeth with a silken thread. Long before the role of oral bacteria was recognized, it was Dr. Parmly’s belief that cavities were caused by foreign material on the tooth surfaces. But it took until nearly the end of the century for his invention to become available in handy dispensers. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, of course, we know much more about the causes and treatment of tooth decay. For example, we know that harmful bacteria in plaque — the sticky biofilm that builds up on your teeth in the absence of effective cleaning — release chemical substances that erode tooth enamel; this causes cavities (tiny holes in the tooth) to begin forming. We also know that while brushing alone helps remove plaque, it’s far and away more effective when combined with flossing.
Yet there’s one thing we’re still not sure of: Why don’t more people use dental floss regularly? Did you know that with careful attention to your oral hygiene, tooth decay is almost completely preventable? Plus, dental floss is now available in many different varieties: It’s no longer made of silk, but can consist of nylon or gore-tex thread; it comes waxed or unwaxed, round or flat… even flavored like mint or bubble gum!
So here’s our suggestion: Find a style of dental floss you like, picture yourself on Bourbon Street… and spend a few minutes flossing every day. Your teeth will say “merci beaucoup.”