Once your toddler begins to grow their first baby teeth, it’s an exciting time with lots of changes and challenges ahead. It’s recommended to begin caring for their teeth even before these first few adult teeth begin to grow. Preparing your infant for oral hygiene is a great first step, and their progress, along with your guidance, will help set your child up for healthy teeth and gums in the future.
Flossing and Baby Teeth
The best time to begin a flossing routine is when your child’s primary teeth have grown in. Between the ages of two and six, around the time when the last two molars grow in, are the most crucial times to begin helping your child floss regularly. Not only will this establish a level of comfort with flossing from an early age but it will also help prevent early childhood cavities by removing any food build up from their new, growing teeth. While, yes, baby teeth will fall out eventually, it’s important to get children into the habit of caring for their teeth as their permanent adult teeth are not too far away in the future. Also, it’s good to keep in mind that tooth health is also directly related to gum health, so making sure baby teeth are kept clean is vital to keeping their mouths healthy.
Flossing New Adult Teeth
Once your child begins to lose their baby teeth, their adult teeth will soon be growing in closer and closer together, creating plenty of crevasses for bacteria to develop and cause decay. Once they get the hang of flossing on their own, around the age of 10, it’s still a good idea to check how well they are getting in between new adult teeth to make sure they’re not missing essential, sometimes hard-to-reach places where cavities most commonly manifest. Getting your child to floss isn’t always the easiest task, but it’s something that should be taken seriously. Young children who begin having serious issues with cavities or gum disease early on tend to compound their problems in the future. While cavities are common, having many cavities in early childhood could be a sign of more severe issues to come, especially with extensive dental work. If your child is still unwilling to floss regularly after parental efforts have been exhausted, speak with their pediatric dentist to schedule a time to have a talk with them in regards to the result of poor oral hygiene. Information is a powerful tool, especially for curious and learning children. Once children become educated about the serious consequences of their actions or inactions, in this case, they tend to take heed and follow the rules.
Teaching your Child how to Floss
Around second or third grade is a good time to have your child start flossing on their own with your supervision to make sure they don’t injure their gums while learning to work their way around new teeth. This process can be tricky with some discouraging moments, but persistence is key in this process.
Step 1: Use soft, high-quality floss and snag off a piece about 18 inches long.
Step 2: Loop and tie each end of the floss around their fingers to teach them how to hold on to the string. Later on, they will learn how to do this without tying, once they’ve become more advanced.
Step 3: Place their thumbs on the inner corners of the floss and have them trace between your fingers as though they were teeth. Be sure to focus on their movements, showing them to move slowly and carefully around each finger, without making any harsh movements. Explain to them where the plaque is and where they should be targeting.
Step 4: Take the string and, while holding their fingers in place, have them slide the string slowly between two easy teeth that are not very close together, so they get a feel for the string and movement. Show them how to create a C-shape with the string to approach their teeth.
Step 5: Have them try a couple of sections of teeth on their own, assisting them along the way, making sure they never snap the floss down onto their gums in between teeth. Repeat these steps until your child begins to gain confidence and a feel for the routine.
If there’s a little bit of bleeding, don’t panic; it’s normal for the first few times. As they continue to floss, the bleeding should stop, and their gums should become strong and healthy. If you feel there is an abnormal amount of inflammation or bleeding, be sure to talk to your pediatric dentist about it.
Good Flossing Habits start with You
Your involvement in your child’s oral hygiene will play an important role in their success. If they see their parent actively pursuing healthy teeth and gums, they will want to follow suit. They already see you as a role model in life, so taking care of your health will also help them learn to mind theirs. Use positive reinforcement, games, rewards, and sing-alongs to help motivate your child to take care of their teeth. Introducing them to dental care in a positive fashion will have them overcome any fear they may have in the future that could result in neglect of dental hygiene. Children and adults alike need to floss regularly to make sure they are getting rid of harmful bacteria and plaque that could lead to cavities and gum disease. Instill habits early on that can benefit both parent and child for a lifetime.