Teaching oral health care habits to your young child can be difficult. But early instruction can set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, happy smiles. Flossing is vital to good oral hygiene, and every parent should make sure that their child knows how to floss.
WHEN SHOULD KIDS BEGIN TO FLOSS
Children should begin flossing as soon as they have two teeth that touch one another. Parents should floss their child’s teeth until they are old enough to floss effectively on their own. As a general rule of thumb, kids are usually able to begin flossing on their own by the time they are 6 or 7 years old.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FLOSSING
Flossing removes food particles and plaque that have accumulated between the teeth. The act of flossing can help to polish the sides of teeth and prevent tartar which can lead to tooth decay. If decay does set in, your child may need a filling or crown. Flossing also helps to prevent bad breath, since it whisks away odor-causing bacteria and food grime. Teach your child that although brushing cleans the front and backs of the teeth, flossing cleans the sides of the teeth. Without flossing, the job is only half done.
TEACHING PROPER FLOSSING TECHNIQUE
Take the time to teach your child how to floss. Work with them every night to make sure that they understand how to floss correctly. The technique that you use will depend on the type of dental floss that you and your child prefer.
TRADITIONAL DENTAL FLOSS
If you use traditional dental floss, teach your child to grip a length of dental floss between their thumb and index finger on each hand. Show your child how to wrap the dental floss around their index finger to reduce slippage. Teach them how to relax the floss into a “C” shape and gently glide it between their teeth. Explain that they should use a new section of floss when moving from tooth to tooth to prevent spreading germs. Make sure to clean both sides of each gap and continue down slightly under the gumline.
DENTAL FLOSS PICKS
If your kid is like most children, they might have a difficult time handling traditional dental floss at first. To make flossing easier, buy some children’s dental floss picks. They have small lengths of pre-strung floss spread between tines on a convenient plastic handle. Show your child how to push the floss between the teeth and how to tell when they need a new flosser.
GET YOUR CHILD EXCITED ABOUT FLOSSING
Teaching your child to floss is one thing but getting them excited about flossing is another! Here are some ideas to help:
MAKE FLOSSING A FAMILY ACTIVITY
Monkey see; monkey do! Kids are great imitators, which is why making dental care and flossing a family activity is a good idea. Brush your teeth alongside your child and let them watch you floss your teeth. For another variation, let them brush your teeth while you brush theirs.
TAKE THEM SHOPPING
Let your child choose their toothbrush, dental floss, toothpaste, and dental flossing picks. This helps them to personalize the activity and make it more fun. There are so many choices!
Consider offering rewards for proper brushing and flossing, such as small toys or stickers. An immediate, tangible reward usually works best.
The pediatric dentists at Alameda Pediatric Dentistry are more than willing to talk with your kids about the importance of proper brushing and flossing. If you have questions or you know that your kids do, call us today to make an appointment!