When Cotton Candy Was Called “Fairy Floss”

Fair-goers enjoy cotton candy.In our previous blogs, I did a series of reviews on some great local restaurants, as an initiative to help the growth of small business. You can check the page out here. Today, we’re going to swing it back to tell a dental-related tale.

With the passing of Halloween, this holiday season is about to be in full gear. So, I figured that you and your family should brace yourself for all the sugar you might be consuming. Did any of my readers happen to make it out to the Newport News Harvest Faire last month? Most fairs are synonymous with unhealthy, artery clogging, and tooth rotting foods. Unlike other fairs, the Newport News Harvest Faire provided medieval foods.

At the Newport News Harvest Faire, there were turkey legs at every corner with no corn dogs or cotton candy in sight. This brings us to the theme of today’s blog, cotton candy. You probably already know that cotton candy is a dental destroyer. But did you know that it was made famous by a dentist? This is Dr. William Griffin blogging from Newport News, VA to discuss the interesting history of cotton candy.

How a Dentist Made Cotton Candy Common

Cotton candy was actually invented during the Renaissance era. It came on the scene in Italy during the 15th century. Special bakeries would boil sugar in a pan, grazing it with a fork to make thin, ornate strands of candy. In the beginning, cotton candy was incredibly labor intensive. This combined with the price of sugar made it a lavish commodity. Cotton candy was only consumed by nobility and the extremely wealthy.

For around 300 years, cotton candy was only consumed by royalty and aristocracy. They would spin it around Easter eggs in beautiful gold and silver colors. Italians would do intricate designs with their spun sugar. Some research says that they would make pastoral landscapes, buildings, birds, and mythic figures out of their sugar sculptures.

It wasn’t until 1897 that a dentist in Tennessee made cotton candy a commodity for all of the social classes. The dentist, James Morrison, had contradictory interests. On one hand, he was passionate about helping people fix their teeth. He did exceptionally well in dental school. In 1894, he was even named the president of the Tennessee State Dental Association. On the other hand, he was an avid supporter and creator of confectionaries and culinary arts.

By the end of the 19th century, Dr. Morrison patented multiple inventions. From his culinary background, there was one invention that converted cottonseed to lard, while his dental background led him to a device that chemically filtered Nashville’s drinking water. By far, Dr. Morrison’s biggest invention was the “electric candy machine.” He co-patented this machine with his confectioner friend, John Wharton. The cotton candy machine used centrifugal pressure to spin melted sugar through tiny holes to create a fluffy sweet treat that was about 70% air. In the beginning, cotton candy was called, “fairy floss.”

In 1904, fairy floss was introduced to the market during the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Dr. Morrison and his co-creator James Morrison sold the fairy floss in little wooden boxes for about twenty-five cents, which is the equivalent of $6 today. Even though, it was expensive for the time, candy floss was lucrative. During it’s initial stages, it made about $17,000 in profit.

The World Fair honored fairy floss by having a special “confectioner’s day,” where it fed 35,000 fair-goers. The dentist’s device was a huge success, and over time became revamped into the machine that we see today. Eventually, he christened the term “cotton candy” and sold it to children at his dental practice. Although, the term “fairy floss” is still used in Australia.

Little did they know, Dr. Morrison’s invention is notoriously unhealthy. Ironically, Dr. Morrison liked sugar. So, it’s doubtful that he invented cotton candy as a money making scheme. His invention proceeded him, and today, cotton candy machines are seen through the world at a variety of festivals and fairs. Luckily, we know a lot more about dental health, and dentists advise against overconsumption of sugar.

Why is Cotton Candy Bad for My Teeth?

Cotton candy is infamously bad for your teeth. It contains about the same amount of sugar as a soda. If you drink sodas often, this might not sound like a lot of sugar. Especially since you can’t physically see the 40 grams of sugar in a soda. Unlike the sugar that’s washed down in soda, cotton candy melts around your teeth. Much like real floss, “fairy floss” gets into tiny nooks and crannies of your teeth. Only, the sugar harms your teeth instead of helping them.

The sugar then gets consumed by the bacteria in your mouth and emits acids that destroy your enamel. While eating cotton candy once a year won’t cause a cavity right away, if it’s consumed often, it sets the stage for tooth decay. One way to avoid tooth decay after eating a spool of cotton candy is to rinse your mouth with water and floss afterward. You can also avoid cavities by chewing sugar-free gum after eating sweets. The best way to prevent cavities is by opting out of sugary food and processed carbohydrates.

If you’d like to learn more about preventing tooth decay, stay tuned into my blog! We’ll also continue to feature local businesses in Newport News.