You should start flossing your children’s teeth even when they have only their baby (primary) teeth. Once a child’s teeth start to fit closely together, usually between the ages of two and six, parents should start to get their children in the habit of flossing daily. As they develop dexterity, you can help them learn to floss. Children usually develop the ability to floss on their own around the age of 10.
To stress the importance of flossing, do it for them regularly until they're able to do it themselves. This will help them develop a good habit of flossing while they still have their baby teeth so that when their permanent teeth come in, they already have flossing worked into their daily oral routine. Use floss that is soft and flexible so that it doesn't hurt their teeth and is comfortable on their gums.
Helping your child floss for the first time
Try tying the floss into small circles on either end of the strand so that your child’s fingers can easily fit in. This will help them get a grip on the floss in the early stages before they learn how to hold it on their own. Next, have your child follow these basic flossing steps:
- Take about 45 cm of floss and loosely wrap most of it around each middle finger leaving an inch of floss between.
- Gently slide it down between your teeth with your thumb and index fingers holding the floss taut. Be careful not to snap it down on your gums.
- Curve the floss around each tooth in a “C” shape and gently move it up and down the sides of each tooth, including under the gum line. Unroll a new section of floss as your move from tooth to tooth.
Don’t worry if your child’s gums bleed at first—this is quite common. After a few days of flossing, the bleeding should stop as their gums become healthier. But if the bleeding persists, consult your dentist.
Making flossing fun for kids to do on their own
To get kids into the habit of daily flossing as part of a good oral care routine, parents need to make flossing fun and easy. Some kids complain, - “Flossing hurts my gums,” but that need not be the case.
Here are some other tips for parents to help teach good oral care habits:
- Monitor children younger than 8 years old - Make sure they use no more than a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste when brushing their teeth. And be sure that they spit out the toothpaste rather than swallowing it when they’re done brushing.
- Make oral care a family event - Brush and floss your own teeth at the same time as your child. You are setting a good example and demonstrating the correct techniques for brushing and flossing.
- Choose toothbrush for right age - Choose a toothbrush that is the right size and design for your child’s level of development. Toothbrushes for toddlers have wide, easy-to-grip handles, small, narrow heads and soft bristles. Toothbrushes for older children have slightly longer handles to reflect an older child’s improved coordination and larger heads to accommodate growing mouths and teeth.