How Is Floss Made and What Is It Made of?

Have you ever looked at the rows and rows of floss and wondered what they’re all made of? What’s the difference between them? Dr. Rick at Dr. Rick Dentistry in Scottsdale explains what that “string” is that we’re supposed to floss our teeth with every day.

From the horse hair “floss” of ancient times to the silk thread “floss” of the 1800s, floss was used by very few people until the invention of nylon floss in the 1940s. Nylon remains one of the most popular floss materials today.

The Many Kinds of Floss

Natural, Synthetic … Waxed, Unwaxed … Flavored, Unflavored … Today we have so many choices. The processes and materials involved in making floss are quite fascinating; here are just a few of the highlights.

Synthetic Floss

Nylon floss (“regular” or “traditional”) is made of multiple nylon filaments twisted together with 2.5 – 3.5 twists per inch to create one much stronger strand. Nylon works well in roomy spaces between teeth, but tends to tear or shred when flossing tight spaces. Ribbon nylon floss works well when spaces between teeth are wider, and is often used for children.

Teflon (PTFE) floss is made from the same fiber used for Teflon cookware. Just one filament is all it takes for a strong floss that is less prone to shredding or breaking. Dental tape is most often made of Teflon, which allows the floss to move smoothly between tight teeth.

Natural Floss

Eco-friendly floss is made of biodegradable silk thread spun and coated with natural beeswax or a plant-derived wax. Silk breaks and snags easily, so it works best for teeth with smooth edges.

Super Floss

Cleaning teeth with braces, bridges or implants can be tricky. This waxed floss is specially made with stiffer ends to be easily moved through the dental work.

Waxed and Unwaxed

Unwaxed floss is thinner and has a more abrasive texture that may clean smooth edges more easily. Waxed floss can move more easily between teeth that are closely spaced or have rough edges. And for a special treat, waxed floss comes in a variety of flavors, from mint to bubble gum to bacon!

Some floss manufacturers don’t identify the material used in their product on their packaging. For those people who prefer biodegradable, eco-friendly, or natural (not synthetic) products, the Dimensions of Dental Hygiene, a peer reviewed journal for dental hygienists, offers a list of floss brands and what they’re made of.

No matter which of these flossing materials you choose, you need to floss every day to protect against plaque. Let’s talk about floss on your next visit to our Scottsdale Dental office — we can help you choose the best floss for your mouth to keep that happy smile!


Focus on Floss, Dimensions of Dental Hygiene.

The History of Dental Floss,

A Brief History of Dental Floss, Mental Floss