“May the floss be with you.” – Luke Skywalker, if he was a dentist fighting the Cavity Empire
For kids, at first sight tooth floss can look like the funny string dad uses to catch fish or the long handle they use to hold onto balloons.
Putting in their teeth can seem downright silly, like SpongeBob Square Pants silly.
But getting kids comfortable with using floss regularly from the time they get their first teeth can give them an invaluable weapon in the fight against cavities and tooth trouble.
Tooth floss helps kids remove popcorn, cookies, potato chips, pepperoni and any and all souvenirs their teeth may have collected from their last meal or snack. Tooth floss helps evict trapped food from kids’ teeth and, just as importantly, cleans plaque from between teeth and the spaces where the gums meet the teeth.
And some adults know from hard personal experience: Plaque sticking around too long can transform into tarter which leads to gum disease.
A Family Activity
Flossing is a skilled art form for youngsters, demanding more manual dexterity than they have at a young age. Most kids aren’t able to floss well by themselves until they are 10 or 11.
That means parents are kids’ best teachers for learning how to floss. Parents should help children begin flossing as soon as they have two teeth that touch. A parents’ gentle touch is key, for if kids floss too hard they can damage the tissue between their teeth.
And flossing should be a daily parent-child activity. The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day to help remove plaque from areas between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach.
Two alarming statistics that provides compelling food for floss: Tooth decay is five times more common than asthma in young children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, currently only 40 percent of Americans floss and 20 percent never floss, according to the Delta Dental Oral Health and Well-Being Survey.
And any child who’s learned the immense oral health benefits of flossing would call that downright silly.
A Parent’s How To Floss Teaching Guide
Here’s Colgate’s Easy How To Floss Teaching Guide Parents can use when helping and teaching their children how to floss:
- Step 1: Hold a short length of floss between the thumb and index finger, twining it around one finger at each end to gain better control. Be careful not to apply too much pressure when inserting the floss between the child’s teeth.
- Step 2: Adjust the floss into a ‘C’ shape curve around each tooth and slide it up and down gently along the side of the tooth and under the gum line.
- Step 3: A new section of floss should be used for each tooth to avoid reinsertion of food and plaque.
- Step 4: An interdental brush can be used to clean between tooth surfaces that have space.
The Truth About Flossing, According To Billy Crystal
Comedian Billy Crystal joked to Readers Digest that when his dentist asks him if he’s been flossing, “like we all do, I lied.”
“Then he pulled a chunk of lobster meat from between my molars. As the jazz trio played him off and he left the room, the parade of specialists began. … I currently have six dental specialists.”
But by teaching kids the value of daily flossing and practicing flossing with the daily, we help them avoid painful oral hygiene trouble and countless costly dentists trips down the road.