While researching dentistry in 1890 for an accurate setting for my title, Isabella’s Calico Groom, I was quite surprised by how advanced and “modern” (by today’s standards) dentistry was. Significant advances in dentistry had occurred in the previous decades, making dentistry truly “modern” compared to patients’ previous experiences. The sheer quantity and magnitude of improvements in dentistry qualify dentists of the 1890s to claim “Modern Dentistry” in their advertisements.
Every cowboy knew how to whittle a toothpick from a stick–and did so regularly. But when (and how) did toothpicks become commercialized? What was the earliest dental floss made of?