Our clinical staff often answers the question, “when should my child start flossing?” The textbook answer is, at the point when two teeth begin to touch in a child’s mouth. This is usually between the ages two and six, when parents should begin flossing or cleaning between their children’s teeth, but at Kids Smiles we offer a different suggestion. We are mostly concerned about better dental habits, such as brushing for at least a full minute each time.
Most kids really will not floss properly, so good brushing is paramount until the developmental milestone of having adult teeth fully erupted in the mouth with normal crown heights and decent contact points with normal gingival embrasure spaces. When most children are 12 or older and have 8 molars and 8 bicuspids fully erupted THEN that is the time (developmental milestone NOT age) to really learn to floss correctly and at least once a day!
Flossing or cleaning between the teeth can occur before or after brushing. If you do try to floss your younger child’s teeth, Dr. Frank Sierra and our other pediatric dentists suggest that you use child-friendly plastic flossing tools to more easily floss your child’s teeth until your child learns to do it. One example is Opalpix and is pictured in this blog header. Even “toothpicks” if properly manipulated are effective. Children’s teeth have much shorter clinical crowns and can easily injure their gums with some of the “other” flossing or “in-between teeth cleaning aids”. They MUST use them parallel to the contact point and NOT dig into their gums.
The American Dental Association recommends cleaning between teeth once a day. This is important because plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing can eventually harden into calculus or tartar. Flossing may also help prevent gum disease and cavities.
The next set of flossing instructions applies to teens and adults too.
- To properly floss, use about 18 inches of floss wound around one of your middle fingers, with the rest wound around the opposite middle finger.
- Hold the floss tightly between the thumbs and forefingers and gently insert it between the teeth.
- Curve the floss into a “C” shape against the side of the tooth.
- Rub the floss gently up and down, keeping it pressed against the tooth. Don’t jerk or snap the floss.
- Floss all teeth. Don’t forget to floss behind the back teeth.
- Remember always to also lead by example. Establishing healthy habits early on can lead to a lifetime of good dental care practices and good health.