Our experience tells us that flossing is the hardest good oral hygiene habit to adopt. Few will argue the benefits of flossing: prevent bad breath, cavities, and gum disease. Yet the adult who consistently flosses on a daily basis is often the exception rather than the rule. The reasons (or for us excuses) are many and varied. However, we believe it is less to do with the hassles of flossing and more to due with the habits instilled in us as children.
Parenting is no easy feat and we celebrate when children come in with established brushing habits. Unfortunately, there is a misplaced assumption that flossing should come “later”. Seeing 3 and 4-year-olds come in with cavities between several back teeth is proof that flossing is as important for kids as it is for adults.
Here are some tips from your family dentist in Mankato that will help you turn your little one into a lifelong flosser.
When to Start Flossing
We encourage an attempt at flossing as early as the first attempt at brushing. This can be at under 12 months of age. Initially, success will be getting the child to let you put the floss in the mouth AT ALL! But if you do this consistently, the child will learn to adapt and allow you to actually floss!! As the child gets older and is ready to floss independently, the feeling is familiar and the learning curve is reduced. For most kids, this is around 6 or 7 years of age, or when they can tie their own shoes.
How to Floss Your Child’s Teeth
Here are some basic guidelines on flossing your child’s teeth:
- Do what you can. When you are starting out, do as much as you can (even if just flossing a tooth or two). Much is dependent on the age of the child. Try to do a little more each day. Learn to celebrate each milestone.
- Choose a thicker floss. Gaps between children’s teeth tend to be bigger than those in adult mouths. Some types of floss are specifically made for children and even come in fun flavors that your little one will love.
- Always be gentle. Gums CAN be damaged if you are too rough or careless. Flossing should not be a painful experience for your child.
- Once a day is enough. Even for most adults, once per day is sufficient.
- Floss both sides of each tooth. When you’re working between two teeth, be sure to move the floss along the surfaces of both
- What if they bleed? When anyone first starts flossing, their gums may bleed. This is caused by the plaque that is present and irritating the gums. Flossing will help to heal the gums and bleeding will stop after a few days.
Take advantage of flossing to talk about what you’re doing and why. Help them to understand the benefits of flossing, as well as the techniques they should use when they start to floss on their own. And don’t be surprised when your CHILD is the one reminding YOU “It’s time to floss my teeth”!
Teaching your child how to floss can help them enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles! Do your best to make this habit part of your family’s daily routine.
About the Author
Dr. James Kalina, your dentist in Mankato, is always happy to share his knowledge with his patients about how they can care for their teeth at home. As a father himself, he has experience with the challenges and rewards of teaching young ones how to maintain a healthy smile. If you would like to talk to him about how you can help your child brush and floss effectively, contact our office at 507-625-2021.