Let’s make one thing clear: everyone should be flossing. Yet about one-third of Americans don’t floss their teeth.
Ignoring proper dental hygiene leads to long-term oral concerns. As a parent, it’s essential to not only floss but to also teach your children the importance of flossing for kids.
How can you get your child on a healthy floss routine? Let’s explore our top tips for brushing and flossing for kids.
Flossing for Kids: Why It’s Important
As a parent, teach flossing habits early. Flossing at a young age leads to strong teeth and gums throughout life.
Flossing removes food and bacteria from between the teeth. Without flossing, particles can create plaque and tartar. Plaque causes tooth decay and cavities. The CDC estimates one in five children between five and 11 has at least one decayed tooth.
Not only does flossing save your child from decaying teeth, but it also prevents periodontal (gum) disease.
Without flossing, plaque slowly eats away at gum tissue. Periodontitis occurs when the gums become inflamed or infected. Flossing removes plaque from the base of the teeth (which is the most vulnerable area of the gums) and reduces your child’s risk of periodontal disease.
Another benefit to flossing is that it prevents bad breath. Food and bacteria hiding in the gums create foul odors that can make your child’s breath smell rancid. Regular flossing removes particles and keeps your child’s breath minty fresh.
The Steps to a Successful Floss
Children should begin flossing once they have two teeth that are touching one another. Typically, this is between ages two and three.
But before you start, parents need to understand how to floss for kids.
Step #1: Choosing Your Floss
To establish a habit, consistency is key. While there are various types of floss to choose from, pick one and stick with it. Your child will get used to its texture and feel, making the experience more comfortable.
Each type of floss has pros and cons. It’s up to you to determine which variety is best suited for your little one’s mouth.
Waxed floss has a light wax film. It typically comes in a mint or cinnamon flavor, which some children may not like. The wax allows the strands to easily glide between the teeth. But waxed floss is thick and may be difficult to fit between a child’s teeth.
Unwaxed floss is made from thin nylon strands. It typically does not have a flavor, which some children prefer. Unwaxed floss has non-slip grip properties that make it easy to hold, especially when flossing someone else’s mouth. On the downside, unwaxed floss is known for easily fraying.
For environmentally-conscious parents, biodegradable floss is available. The floss comes from silk that naturally breaks down. Most of these flosses come in a mint flavor for a fresh-tasting mouth.
While there are different floss types to pick from, some parents use floss picks attached to a handle. This makes it easy to reach all areas of their child’s mouth.
Step #2: Picking a Flossing Method
When it comes to the flossing process, pick one method and stick with it. Let your child become familiar with how to floss so eventually they can do it on their own.
There are two popular ways parents floss their child’s teeth: the loop method and the spool technique. A qualified pediatric dentist can demonstrate both methods, so you know exactly what to do.
The Loop (Circle) Method
Take a piece of floss that is about 18 inches long. Tie the two ends together to create a circle. Place all of your fingers (no thumbs) inside the loop.
Use your index fingers to guide the floss along your child’s lower teeth while using your index finger to floss the upper ones. Be sure to reach every area and go below the gum line.
The Spool (Finger-Wrap) Method
Start by cutting off a piece of floss that is between 18 and 20 inches in length. Wrap both sides around each of your middle fingers.
Move the floss between your child’s teeth. Use your index finger and thumb to move the floss up-and-down and side-to-side. Make sure to get between the sides of each tooth.
Step #3: Flossing With Your Child
Children should floss once per day for two to three minutes.
Before you begin, explain what flossing is and why it’s important. Demonstrate how flossing works by eating a leafy vegetable (like romaine lettuce or spinach) and then flossing. Your child will see the green food particles come out from between your teeth and understand how crucial flossing is.
If your child is nervous, floss your teeth first. Let your child watch and see that flossing is nothing to be scared of.
Form positive associations with flossing by making the experience fun. A fun flossing activity for kids includes singing a song or telling a funny story. The more enjoyable you make the experience, the more inclined your child will be to continue taking care of their teeth.
Step #4: Letting Your Child Floss Alone
If you do your job right, your child will eventually learn how to floss on their own. For most kids, this will be around second or third grade.
To start, watch your child floss from a distance. Ensure they are doing it long enough and reaching every single one of their pearly whites. Correct any mistakes you see.
Once your child is flossing correctly, you can let them do it all on their own. Check in from time-to-time and make sure they are not skipping flossing sessions or rushing through the process.
Time for a Checkup? We Can Help
Flossing for kids doesn’t have to be a chore. Take the time to educate your child on why we floss and make it a fun experience.
As your children grow up with a healthy set of pearly whites, they will thank you for taking the time to instill proper oral habits into their routine.
So, now that you understand why flossing is important for kids, is it time for your child’s next check-up?
Schedule an appointment with your local pediatric dentistry. We are the experts in helping kids create healthy smiles.