Good oral hygiene is an important part of overall health. Flossing teeth helps prevent gum disease, which attacks the bones and tissues that support teeth and can lead to tooth and bone loss. Other benefits of flossing? Early detection of cavities and even oral cancers.
That’s why you want to take care of your child’s teeth right from the start and build lifelong dental health habits. According to the Canadian Dental Association, children should have their first visit with a dentist within six months of getting their first tooth or by one year of age. After that, they should see their dentist twice a year.
At home, you should practise good oral hygiene every day. And that means making sure your kids floss.
Flossing teeth is important because it removes plaque and bacteria a toothbrush can’t reach — more than one-third of total tooth surface. Plaque is the main cause of gum disease. If not removed within 24 hours or so, plaque hardens into tartar, which can be removed only with professional cleaning. Reducing plaque is one of the key benefits of dental flossing.
- Flossing should start when children have two teeth that touch one another, which is usually around age two or three.
- Flossing should be done at least once a day for best results.
- As for flossing before or after brushing, studies have shown it’s better to floss, then brush, rather than the other way around.
- Children will usually need help with flossing teeth until they’re eight or a little older. Disposable flossers are often the best dental floss for very young children.
Proper flossing technique
- Step 1: Take a long piece of gum dental floss about the length of your child’s arm and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about two inches between. Use your index fingers to guide the floss between the teeth.
- Step 2: Slide the floss between the teeth, wrapping it around the tooth where it meets the gum.
- Step 3: Wipe the tooth from top to bottom several times until it is clean. Move to a new part of the dental floss as you move from tooth to tooth.
Fun ways to incorporate flossing teeth into your child’s daily routine
- If you brush and floss with your child, you are showing by example that oral dental health is important. Plus, it’s an easy way to make sure your kids floss right.
- Think of reward systems to ensure kids floss– whatever it might be that motivates your child, such as stickers on a calendar, one earned for every flossing session, or reading a favourite book together at bedtime.
- Play a favourite song and make it part of your routine. The good thing about that is not only will the child enjoy themselves, but the length of the song helps them to know how long they should be flossing (at least two minutes).
- Teach your child about dental health with videos that will inspire them. The American Dental Association has one about Dudley the Dinosaur brushing and flossing with his cartoon friends. You can even make your own video with the kids.
- Let your child pick out their own oral health products, such as gum dental floss, toothbrush and toothpaste. Letting them choose what they like best is great motivation.
Your children look up to you and will follow your example. If you make flossing part of your daily time together, you are developing lifelong oral hygiene habits. When kids floss, it helps keep their mouths healthy and their smiles bright.
What’s the best way to floss your teeth?
- Take a length of dental floss equal to the distance from your hand to your shoulder.
- Wrap it around your index and middle fingers, leaving about two inches between your hands.
- Slide the floss between your teeth and wrap it into a “C” shape around the base of the tooth and under the gumline. Wipe the tooth from base to tip two or three times.
- Floss both sides of every tooth, and don’t forget the backs of your last molars.
- Go to a new section of the floss as it wears and picks up particles. When you’re finished, roll the floss up into a tiny ball and put it in the garbage. Never flush it down the toilet.
When should kids start flossing?
Stanford Medicine Children’s Health recommends to start flossing as soon as your child has two teeth that touch — typically around age two to three. They may need help with flossing up until age eight or ten.