We all know we should brush kids’ teeth, or have them brush their own teeth once they’re up to the task, twice a day. Yet, how about when to start flossing kids’ teeth? Or, the better question, how to floss kids’ teeth? It can seem like a daunting task but flossing is a crucial part of any child’s oral hygiene routine. The team at Bitesize Pediatric Dentistry is sharing our flossing knowledge to fill you in on when and how to floss kids’ teeth, as well as some pointers for teaching them to do it on their own.
When to Start Flossing Kids’ Teeth
You can start flossing kids’ teeth as soon as any two teeth are touching. When the baby teeth first erupt, if they’re not anywhere near each other, brushing alone is fine. However, once they touch, floss to get rid of plaque in the area in between the teeth and under the gums that your kiddo’s toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing also helps to get rid of debris that can get stuck in the tight spaces of your little one’s smile and it eliminates bad breath.
How to Floss Kids’ Teeth
There are a ton of different types of dental floss and the best dental floss for kids will be whatever is simplest for you to work with. However, we generally recommend opting for a soft, gentle floss or a kids’ dental floss pick, which can make things easier.
For toddlers and small children who don’t love when you floss their teeth, it can sometimes be helpful to try out different positions and opt for the floss picks, since you can maneuver them one-handed. You can sit behind your child and have them tilt their head up to look at the sky. Rest their head on your shoulder or upper arm and use the hand that’s not holding the floss to gently pull back their cheek and lips so you can see what you’re doing. Or, if there’s another adult in the house, you can try the knee-to-knee technique, which you can see in action here.
If you’re using traditional floss, grip a length of floss, about 18 inches, between your thumb and index finger and then wrap the floss around your index fingers. Gently guide the floss between any two teeth, relaxing it and curving it around a tooth. Floss up and down one side of that tooth sliding it under the gum line and then up and down the side of the other tooth. Use a fresh section between each set of teeth.
If you’re using a kids’ dental floss pick, the floss will be pre-threaded but you’ll use the same technique of sliding it gently up and down one side of the tooth and under the gum line and then repeating on the other tooth. Whichever method you use, floss kids’ teeth once a day.
How to Teach Kids’ to Floss Their Teeth
Most kids won’t have the dexterity to truly floss on their own until they’re about six years old or so and even then you’ll want to supervise until you’re confident in their abilities. However, it’s a good idea to teach kids to floss their teeth early on so they get the hang of it. Then, you can just follow up quickly to make sure they didn’t miss any spots. Here are some pointers for teaching kids to floss their teeth:
- If you’re not a big flosser, now is the time to up your flossing game. Become a flossing role model and let your kids see you flossing your teeth every day.
- Demonstrate how to hold the floss and proper technique on yourself so they can learn what it looks like.
- If you use regular string dental floss for kids, help them wrap the floss around their fingers, making sure it’s not so tight that it’s cutting off circulation.
- If the string floss is too challenging, consider using kids’ dental floss picks. Fun colors and flavors can get them more excited about the process. Even with a floss pick, you’ll still need to demonstrate how to floss properly.
- Encourage kids to floss their teeth gently to avoid hurting their gums.
- Keep practicing with kids until they’re using smooth, gentle motions and effectively cleaning their teeth.
- If your child needs a bit of extra encouragement, an oral hygiene sticker chart can be a great motivator. Every time they brush and floss, have them place a sticker on the chart. When they reach a predetermined amount of stickers, maybe they get to claim a prize.
Now that you know how to floss kids’ teeth, it’s time to get their pearly whites squeaky clean. If you have questions or you’re having trouble getting kids to floss, reach out or schedule a visit with a Williamsburg or Park Slope pediatric dentist today!