When and How to Do It

Amanda Gerla

Flossing ensures that the spaces between your teeth get clean. It also helps to prevent plaque and bacteria buildup, which can cause cavities or gum disease.

But if we’re all being honest, even adults have a hard time flossing regularly. And this means you might not be reinforcing the importance of flossing with your kids.

If you’re concerned that your child’s next dentist appointment might have less than stellar results, it’s time to check out this crash course on pediatric dental hygiene. Learn about best practices and how to build healthy oral habits with your kids.

When your baby has only one tooth, keeping it clean is pretty easy. But as more teeth begin to appear, you’ll need to step up their oral care routine.

At this point, they might still be too young to get the hang of flossing their teeth — which means it’s your job to get in there, keep those pearly whites clean, and train them on proper oral care.

Once your child has two teeth that touch in their mouth, it’s time to start introducing flossing into their routine.

Regular flossing can ensure that debris doesn’t remain lodged between their teeth. Additionally, flossing helps to manage bad breath and can polish the surface of your child’s teeth.

Regardless of the approved flossing tool you pick, which we’ll discuss below, dentists note that you should floss your child’s teeth at least once per day. This should take around 2 minutes per session.

Here are the steps to follow each time:

  1. Break off about 18 inches of floss. You can either wind it around each of your middle fingers or hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.
  2. Work the floss in an up-and-down motion around every surface of the tooth, making sure to work below the gum line to effectively remove any debris and plaque from the surface.
  3. Bend the floss in a C-shape on each side of the tooth to get a thorough cleaning.
  4. Once finished, throw the floss away.

It can’t be stressed enough that flossing is part of a good oral hygiene routine and can help prevent cavities and gum disease.

Flossing does more than just dislodge visible foods from between your child’s teeth. It can also help remove plaque, which can eventually turn into tartar and lead to more serious dental issues.

However, your child might not get the hang of flossing until they’re 8 to 10 years old.

That’s why it’s important for you to teach them how to do it properly. This way, when it’s their turn to take over dental duties, they’ll know what to do.

According to a 2017 survey, most Americans have used something other than floss to pick debris out of their teeth.

Aside from being ineffective, objects like fingernails, paperclips, and pins can do more harm than good — and can lead to oral injuries. You should use only floss or flossers to clean your child’s teeth.

A wide variety of floss is available, including:

  • waxed versus unwaxed
  • flossing tools, like flossers or floss picks
  • flavored or unflavored
  • traditional spool string

All the types of floss listed above are equally effective, as long as you’re diligent about working thoroughly across each tooth to remove plaque.

You may find that a flossing tool is easier to control. Since you’ll be working inside your child’s mouth, a flossing tool can make maneuvering between teeth easier than trying to wind and unwind traditional floss between your hands.

However, budget-conscious parents may find this option more expensive than traditional floss rolls.

Water flossers can be an alternative for flossing, especially when your child has braces.

Traditional flossing is the best option, though. This is because water flossers don’t always effectively remove all the plaque, which may leave harmful bacteria on the surface of your child’s teeth.

If you’re still not sure about which type to use, you can ask your child’s dentist to determine which option might work best for your kid.

  • Sometimes letting little ones floss your teeth can help take away any hesitancy.
  • Remember not to be too forceful when you floss your child’s teeth. Flossing shouldn’t be painful.
  • Consider rewarding your child with something (other than food) for a good flossing experience. For example, offer sticker rewards or a little extra playtime after every successful flossing session.
  • While flossing after meals or right before bed is something most people assume is required, dental experts agree that as long as you floss daily, the time of day doesn’t necessarily matter.

Dental health is just as important as the rest of your child’s physical health. And just like you need to show them how to manage other daily activities — getting dressed, bathing, even eating — you need to also take the time to properly train them to keep their teeth clean.

While flossing will require more hands-on effort on the part of parents, especially early on, the goal of a healthy mouth that’s free of cavities should make the process worth it.

Make flossing part of a daily routine to help your children care for themselves.


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