October is National Dental Hygiene Month and each week we will be focusing on a different aspect of children’s oral health. We are starting off this important series with flossing. Much has been written about the importance and teaching of brushing, however flossing is equally important. Flossing helps to remove food and plaque from in between the teeth where the toothbrush cannot reach. Many parents are under the misconception that flossing is not necessary for the primary (baby) teeth. However, experts concur that flossing is necessary once your child has two teeth that touch. This usually happens initially with the last two molars (around age 2- 2 1/2). At this point it is good to get in the habit of flossing every night at bedtime before brushing. Until your child has the dexterity to floss on their own, you will need to do it for them. This is usually up until age six, but will vary with all children—some even until age ten.
Park View's Point of View
At Park View Pediatric Dentistry, we approach all that has to do with oral health in a fun and positive way, and flossing is no exception. Our primary focus is always to set the foundation for a lifetime of excellent oral health and provide at-home education. Nothing makes us happier than telling our young patients that they have a cavity-free visit!
Here are some tips to help you with flossing your child’s teeth and making it a positive experience:
• Take approximately 18 inches of floss and loosely wrap most of it around each middle or index finger, leaving an inch of floss between.
• Gently curve the floss around each tooth making a “C” shape and move it up and down the sides of each of your child’s tooth, as you would do your own. Make sure you unroll a new section of floss as your move from tooth to tooth, and be careful not to snap down on the gums.
• When your child is a little older and you want to encourage them to learn to floss on their own, you may want to get them those kid-friendly, colorful flossing sticks. They are designed to be easy to hold and usually come in packs of 50-100. Naturally they should be thrown away immediately after use.
• Make flossing time fun time with the use of stories or songs. Some parents even make up games where the dental floss has a super hero name, like “Fearless Flosser” and pretend they are going after all of the bad plaque and bacteria.
• It is also fun to hang up a flossing progress chart with the days of the week. Children love to track their progress with stamps and stickers. If you don’t want to make your own, you can find printable charts online.
Most importantly, children love praise and encouragement. Just as you acknowledge their good efforts for eating their vegetables, flossing should always be followed by positive reinforcement.
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Park View Pediatric Dentistry