It’s also about flossing, and the best time to build a lifelong daily flossing habit is in childhood. This is where parents come in, but where we as pediatric dentists come in is to give parents a few tips to keep in mind when teaching kids how to floss.
Many parents mistakenly think that because baby teeth are only there for a few years, it’s not important to try very hard to keep them cavity-free. Yes, baby teeth will eventually be replaced with permanent teeth, but healthy baby teeth are better for chewing, talking, and guiding the permanent teeth into place than cavity-filled baby teeth. It takes brushing AND flossing to keep baby teeth healthy.
Kids take a while to develop the dexterity and hand-eye coordination they need to be able to floss their own teeth, but we shouldn’t wait until then to teach them or set an example. Parents demonstrating good brushing and flossing habits is an essential part of kids growing up with those habits. Another is to floss their teeth for them, and age two and a half is generally a good time to start.
More than anything else, consistency is key. Children who are comfortable with the idea of flossing as part of their day are much more likely to keep it up once they’re doing it for themselves.
When teaching kids how to floss, there are a few things you can do to help get them engaged and motivated.
For parents who stick to traditional floss, technique is key. You’ll want to show your child how to pull out the right amount of floss (about a foot and a half) and loosely secure it around their middle fingers with just an inch or two to slide between the teeth. Take that inch or two and carefully curve it around a tooth in a C-shape and wiggle back and forth instead of pulling straight down to the gums, which can be dangerous.
After gently cleaning in both directions between two teeth, slide the floss back out and shift to a clean section of floss for the next spot. It’s important to use clean floss each time, or you’re basically just moving plaque from one area to another instead of getting rid of it!
If you have any questions about good flossing technique or how to pass a daily flossing habit on to your kids, just let us know! We’re experts in children’s dental health, and that includes flossing and helping kids become experts in taking care of their own teeth as they get older.