Teaching oral hygiene practices to your children – such as early flossing – is critical for optimal oral health. Start early, practice often.
According to the American Dental Association and the Center for Disease Control, flossing is an important component behind oral health. While an infant with only a tooth or two may not require flossing, toddlers that have teeth that are close together should be encouraged to floss due to the fact that plaque may accumulate in the spaces between those teeth.
Plaque is a sticky type of film that contains millions upon millions of bacteria. Failure to eliminate plaque in a child’s mouth through brushing and flossing will result in the development of decay and possibly even gum disease.
“When they mention great little things in life, they usually forget flossing….” – Scott Simon
When a child’s teeth become close enough for food products and other types of debris to become lodged between them, it is time to pull out the floss. This typically occurs around age 2 to 3. Initially, you will need to assist your child in their flossing activities. However, as their motor skills and mental capacities start to develop and enhance, you may hand over the task for them to complete in an independent fashion. For some children, this may be as early as age 4, while other kids may not develop the ability to thoroughly floss until the age of 10.
When teaching your child to floss, take approximately 18 inches of the flossing product that you have obtained and show them how to wrap it around their middle fingers. Then, show them how to guide the flossing using their index fingers. They should be taught to move the floss up and down and around each and every single tooth.
If flossing hurts a child it is likely being performed inappropriately. You should re-evaluate how the flossing is being performed. If it continues to hurt, despite trying to do it correctly, a visit to a pediatric dentist should be scheduled to determine if there is an underlying oral health issue.
In order to ensure a positive and productive flossing experience for your child, follow the tips outlined below:
- When you first start flossing your child’s teeth, make a big deal out of it by allowing them to shop for their own floss.
- Make certain that all floss utilized is soft.
- In order to excite a child who is just starting to engage in the flossing process, purchase floss products that are flavored.
- Keep a chart of flossing successes and reward appropriately.
- Explain to your child why flossing is such an important aspect of their oral health.
In addition to the steps and tips outlined throughout this guide, it is imperative to work closely with a pediatric dentist to ensure your child’s optimal oral health. Remember to place a special emphasis on flossing, brushing, and eating and drinking the appropriate foods and liquids. In taking these measures early, you will help your child develop lifelong, healthy habits.