From the day your child gets their first tooth, you begin their brushing routine. You teach them that brushing is important to keep their teeth healthy, and you slowly start teaching them how to brush — how to apply the toothpaste, and how to move the toothbrush.
What you may not mention to your child right away is that flossing is also important! In fact, you may have some questions about flossing children’s teeth, why it is so important, and when you should start. Keep reading to discover the answers.
What Does Flossing Actually Do for the Teeth?
When you brush your teeth — or your child’s teeth, for that matter — you are removing bacteria, sugars, and acids from the surface of the teeth. Together, these substances form a sticky film called plaque. Removing the plaque protects your child’s teeth from cavities and decay that can result from the acid that oral bacteria secrete after they eat sugar. The problem is that your toothbrush can’t reach everywhere. In particular, it can’t reach between your child’s teeth, which is one of the places where oral bacteria really like to hide.
Flossing removes plaque and oral bacteria from those hard-to-reach places between the teeth. Experts say that brushing alone can leave 35 percent of the tooth’s surface uncleaned, which is quite a lot! Flossing cleans that remaining 35 percent of the tooth surface for more complete cavity protection. (Flossing also prevents bad breath and gum disease, which are also the result of oral bacteria!)
When Should You Start Flossing Your Child’s Teeth?
Since manipulating floss with tiny fingers is hard, you will initially want to floss your child’s teeth for them — just like you do with brushing. You can start as soon as your child has two baby teeth that touch. Yes, flossing the baby teeth is important, even though they will fall out in a few years. Cavities and decay in the baby teeth can make it difficult for your child to properly eat and talk.
Many children’s teeth don’t touch and are therefore not close enough together to require flossing until they’re between the ages of two and six.
How Do You Floss Your Child’s Teeth and Teach Them to Floss?
It’s usually easiest to use smooth, waxed floss since this glides between the teeth more readily. Ask your child to open their mouth, and then gently guide the floss between their teeth, making a C shape around the bottom of each tooth. Do this once a day. Your child will soon get used to the routine.
When your child is about six, you can start allowing them to floss their own teeth under your supervision. You can go back and floss any teeth they miss at the end. Some kids find that using dental flosser picks is easier than using a long string of floss.
Flossing is as important for kids as it is for adults. To learn more about flossing, refer to this resource: Does Flossing Benefit More Than Just Oral Health?