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We all know that flossing is an important part of oral hygiene for adults, but how important is it for children? Do they need to floss if they are going to lose their baby teeth eventually? The answer is yes, absolutely! Starting good flossing habits early is important, and it just may be an incentive to get parents to floss, too.
Is Flossing Important for Children?
The Centers For Disease Control and American Dental Association have both confirmed that flossing is an essential part of oral health. This applies to everyone–starting in preschool. As soon as your child’s teeth are close enough together for plaque to build up, it’s time to get flossing!
Even though baby teeth will eventually fall out, it’s important to keep them healthy. And starting flossing early will help your child create good dental habits for a lifetime. Your child should floss at least once a day; making flossing a part of his or her bedtime routine works best for many families.
What Are the Benefits of Flossing?
Brushing alone simply can’t get to all the plaque that builds up between teeth. Most dentists consider flossing just as important as brushing. But it’s a harder habit to put in place, in part because parents themselves often have a negative perception of flossing. But once you get in the habit, flossing actually feels great, and it’s important to convey that message to your kids.
Flossing gets rid of food debris that gets caught between teeth. That debris is a breeding ground for bacteria and contributes to plaque buildup. Flossing is an important step in preventing cavities, bad breath and most importantly gum disease. If plaque isn’t removed, it not only affects the teeth but the gum tissue itself, which can lead to big problems down the road. The American Academy of Periodontology (which focuses on gum health) says that regular brushing and flossing once a day is the best way to prevent gum disease–but fewer than 15 percent of Americans floss daily. It’s time to improve those numbers by starting children on the right track.
At What Age Should My Children Start Flossing?
Flossing should start as soon as your children’s baby teeth are close enough together for food to get caught in between. But to get things going, your child will need your help. Parents should start flossing for their children as early as age 2 or 3 and definitely by age 6–as soon as their baby teeth move close enough together. Depending on their motor skills and abilities, you can gradually teach them to floss on their own with the goal of having them floss independently by age 10. This may mean more work for parents for a few years, but it will pay off in the long run.
To floss correctly, take 18 inches of floss (or a little more) and wrap around your middle fingers. Use your index fingers to gently move the floss up and down around each tooth making a C- shape. Remind children not to jam the floss into their gums: it’s not supposed to hurt and actually feels good once you get the hang of it.
What Are Some Tips to Get My Children to Floss?
Your dentist has some great tips for incorporating flossing into your children’s routine at an early age. Here are a few good ones:
- Let your kids choose their first floss. If they want to start with a themed pre-threaded flosser, give it a shot to start. These tend to be pricier so work to transition to regular floss as they get older.
- Use soft floss that won’t hurt their gums. Smoother comfort floss works well for many families, and flavored floss is often a big hit with kids.
- Reward flossing with a small non-food prize at the end of each successful week.
- Keep a family chart and compare notes to make flossing a fun game. Celebrate with a healthy meal at the end of the week.
- Explain to children that flossing can help prevent cavities so means fewer trips to the dentist. Remind older children that flossing is key to preventing bad breath.
Parents and Dentists Working Together To Create Good Habits
Believe it or not, the most important strategy for parents is to set a great example by flossing every day and letting their children observe this important habit. Parents are the best role models, and if you break out the floss every evening, your child will be curious and want to imitate your behavior. It’s a great opportunity to answer questions and reinforce the idea that flossing is an important part of your family’s routine instead of something to be dreaded.
If you need help incorporating flossing into your family’s routine, call NOVA Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics today. Our staff has plenty of tips for making flossing easy and fun.