You probably know yourself that flossing is one dental habit that can be tricky to master. Nevertheless, it is a vital component of our oral hygiene routine and as such, the sooner we can teach our kids to floss properly, the better it will be for their dental and general health.
Many people are aware that they should floss, but a surprising number of them don’t know why it is as important as it is. The simple answer is that flossing is the only effective way of removing food and plaque from the teeny, tiny gaps between our teeth where the bristles of a toothbrush, however fine, simply can’t reach. These gaps are ideal locations for dental debris to become stuck, and if not removed, this can lead to decay and cavities, toothache and a particularly serious problem – gum disease. Gum disease occurs when the bacteria that are found in plaque migrates onto the sensitive gum tissues, causing irritation and soreness. If treatment isn’t sought, infection can develop and trigger the gums to recede, the bone in the jaw to deteriorate and eventually, teeth may fall out. There have also been links between gum disease and diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. Unsurprisingly, dentists recommend that patients do all that they can to avoid gum disease and flossing regularly is one of the most effective methods for doing this.
There are a number of things that you can do to encourage your child to floss and to help them to master the technique so that it becomes easy to incorporate the task into their daily routine.
Kids love to feel in control of situations, so unsurprisingly, letting them choose their own floss can be empowering and encouraging. There are various types of dental floss now available, so be sure to check out the options available and in particular, the ‘fun’, child-friendly types in super-cool packaging that are designed specifically to get your little one on board!
If your kids can’t get on with conventional floss, as many can’t when they are particularly young, then don’t be afraid to look at the other types of interdental cleaners now on the market. These include flossing sticks with handles, water flossers, air flossers and even wooden plaque removers. There is almost certainly a suitable variety for every child.
You can’t encourage your child to floss if you aren’t prepared to set a good example. Invite them into the bathroom with you when you brush your teeth so you can show them exactly what you are doing and how to handle the floss. Even better, let them floss alongside you so that you can step in gently to correct them if and when they struggle to get the technique right.
1. Show them how to take hold of a short length of floss by holding it between their thumb and index finger, wrapping it around one finger at each end for better control, but without doing it so tightly that it is painful.
2. Demonstrate how to gently insert the floss between the teeth and move the floss gently up and down gently along the side of the teeth and under the gum line.
3. Explain the importance of using a new section of floss for each tooth to avoid cross-contaminating teeth with plaque and bacteria.
4. Encourage your child to rinse at the end of flossing which will ensure the removal of any remaining loose debris.
Positive reinforcement is one of the most motivating things that you can do for your child, so be sure to reward every effort in some way – just not with sweet treats!
For more advice and support on teaching your kids how to floss their teeth, please contact our office where our expert dental team will be delighted to assist you.