Flossing your teeth is a tough habit even for adults to work into their busy days. The benefits in fighting tooth decay greatly outweigh the few extra minutes spent flossing every day, yet a recent study found that only 30% of American floss their teeth on a regular basis. It’s no wonder it’s hard to get children to begin this habit if their parents are not doing it themselves.
Smile Surfers Kids Dentistry believe in helping little surfers develop healthy habits for life, and one of them is a daily flossing habit.
When should kids begin flossing?
Children’s teeth can be flossed as soon as two of their teeth touch each other. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends children clean between their teeth once a day to remove plaque and leftover food that gets stuck between teeth.
As teeth begin to move closer together, anywhere between age 2 and age 6, parents should begin to make sure flossing is part of a daily habit.
Children lack much of the dexterity needed to manipulate floss in the mouth, so having a parent do the initial work will get them used to the process and the feeling of the floss. For some kids, they may be able to manage flossing on their own when they have mastered tying their shoes. It may take longer for other kids, but the habit it important, so help them as long as needed.
Why is flossing so important for children?
It can be wrongly assumed that children don’t need to floss when they still have their baby teeth. It’s also a common misconception that if their teeth don’t yet touch that flossing is ineffective. In truth, only positive benefits will be reaped from flossing at an early age.
- Baby (primary) teeth are susceptible to cavities, too – so flossing will keep baby teeth healthy and cavity-free.
- Primary teeth help children speak clearly and chew naturally. They also help in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt.
- Flossing helps remove the leftover food particles that brushing cannot reach – it cleans out the gaps between your teeth. Brushing your teeth cannot remove all the food and bacteria in your mouth, so a few minutes of flossing will eliminate any food stuck in between teeth.
- Flossing between your teeth helps remove a sticky film called plaque. Plaque contains bacteria that feeds on leftover food or sugar in your mouth. This bacteria can release an acid that wears away at the enamel on your teeth and cause cavities.
- If plaque is not removed through brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar. Tartar can only be removed by your dentist, and left on your teeth can turn into gum disease. Plaque that is not removed by brushing and cleaning between your teeth can eventually harden into a rough substance called tartar Tartar collects along your gum line and can lead to gum disease. Once tartar forms, only your dentist can remove it.
- Starting early builds life-long habits. If children learn that they brush and floss their teeth every day, it will become part of their routine. Quality flossing is better than doing it quickly but not being very thorough.
- If your little surfer has braces, floss is their friend. The addition of braces creates more spaces where plaque and bacteria can hide out. Flossing with braces is a different experience, but vital to prevent plaque buildup and gingivitis.
What kind of floss to use
Generally choosing smooth, soft floss is the best option for starting out. Ultimately the best choice will be the option that your kids will use every day. If the floss is difficult to use, they won’t do it.
Floss picks are a great option if you have an independent little surfer who may want to “do it themselves” but who lack the dexterity and skills to manage the job.
For little surfers with braces, use a waxed flossing product. The addition of the wax allows the floss to glide more easily, meaning the chances of snagging floss on a bracket or wire is reduced. A spongy floss is also a good option.
Ask your dentist to explain how to properly use floss when you have braces. Your orthodontist can also offer lots of great tips for how to care for your teeth with braces.
What is flossing makes my child’s teeth bleed?
It’s common for anyone’s gums to bleed when you first start a regular habit of flossing, especially if you haven’t been doing it on a consistent basis. The blood can be an indication of a periodontal gum condition called gingivitis. Flossing the in between area of the teeth removes bacterial plaque which causes the tissue irritation and the bleeding. This can be scary for kids to see blood in their mouths, so be sure to take it slow and keep doing it every day.
After a week or two of regular flossing, the gums should not bleed anymore. The road to healthy gums has begun! However, if you or your little surfer continues to have discomfort or bleeding gums, talk to your dentist. It could be a sign of something more serious.
Book your appointment with Smile Surfers Kids Dentistry today. Two locations to serve you: