Flossing is important to healthy teeth and gums. Good flossing habits often begin in childhood, but many kids do not learn to floss regularly or to floss properly. This leaves kids at risk for dental problems later in life. Fortunately, you can help your young ones develop healthy flossing habits early for a lifetime of smiles.
Children should begin to floss when their teeth are large enough for their tooth surfaces to be next to one another. The easiest way to tell is to slide a piece of floss between your child’s teeth – if the floss sticks a little, the teeth are touching enough to benefit from flossing. You may be able to floss between some teeth but not between other teeth. Use an interdental brush, which is a type of very small toothbrush, to clean between teeth that are too far apart for flossing.
Teach Your Kids How to Floss Properly
- Pull an 18” – 24” piece of dental floss from the container
- Wrap each of the ends around your index and middle fingers to hold the floss
- Hold the floss in a “C” shape and gently move the floss in a push-pull motion back and forth across the surface of your teeth; move the floss up and down to life food up and away from your gum line
- Use a different section of floss for each tooth
- Get your kids into the habit of flossing once each day
Teach Your Kids the Importance of Flossing – the Fun Way
Make a fake mouth
Flip an egg carton upside down or use a large plastic construction blocks to create fake “teeth.” Push modeling clay, bits of felt or yarn between the bumps of the egg carton or blocks to simulate food stuck between teeth. Let your child picking out the simulated food from between the fake teeth with floss. Show them how to scrape gently along the sides of the fake teeth to dislodge the simulated food.
Use peanut butter to show how brushing alone is not enough
Give your child a spoonful of peanut butter to use during the demonstration. Put on a rubber glove. Spread your fingers wide apart and tell your child to smear the peanut butter all over your hand. Next, put your fingers together and have the child try to remove the peanut butter with a toothbrush. Have the child dip the toothbrush in water as needed. Ask your little one to notice how the peanut butter stays in between your fingers, no matter how much he or she brushes.
Now, have your child try using floss to remove the peanut butter. Be sure to keep your fingers together. Point out that brushing is not enough to remove some food, like peanut butter, from between teeth so flossing is always necessary.
Teaching your kids to floss is one thing – getting them exciting about flossing is quite another. Some kids resist adding new self-care items to their daily routine; others quit practicing healthy dental habits as they take over responsibility for their own hygiene. You can take steps to help kids adopt healthy flossing habits and continue flossing as they become adults.
Try some of the following pro tips to make flossing more enjoyable for kids.
- Make flossing a family activity by letting your child watch you floss your teeth then encouraging your little one to floss his or hers
- Let your child choose his or her floss or dental picks, which now come in kid-friendly styles
- Play a favorite song or make up a “floss dance” to make flossing more fun
- Watch your child floss and praise your kid when he or she does it right
Remind your youngster to floss every day, but try to avoid nagging. Try asking if your child has flossed as he or she is getting ready for bed. Try not to scold your kid if he or she forgot – instead, invite your child to floss at that time.
Ask your child’s dentist for more pro tips for flossing. Your child’s dentist can even perform a demonstration to help your little one get the most out of flossing. The earlier you instill good dental habits, the more likely your child will continue practicing them into adulthood.