Last updated: September 9, 2018
John’s Creek, GA – Recently at Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry, we have been hearing a lot of parents ask whether flossing is really beneficial, especially flossing their children’s baby teeth. The answer is YES, YES, and YES.
As a part of you and your child’s daily brushing routine is it essential to not only brush your teeth but flossing is important to remove any additional food or bacteria caught between your teeth.
Brushing helps remove food caught on the top, outside and inside surfaces of your teeth. However, the toothbrush bristles may not always do a good job removing food caught between your teeth, especially foods that are sticky and gummy and bacteria caught under your gums. That is when flossing comes into play! If food remains between your teeth, even microscopic particles of sugar, that food particle or bacteria can eventually create cavities between your teeth or create inflammation of the gums, also known as gingivitis.
These types of cavities are very common with both primary and permanent teeth. And, unfortunately, with primary teeth, because the enamel has a different consistency and thinner than permanent teeth, if a child develops those in-between teeth cavities, and if left untreated, those cavities can quickly progress into very large cavities requiring baby root canals and stainless steel crowns or can even develop into an dental infection causing pain and swelling. Cavities can also make eating or drinking difficult because the teeth are so sensitive.
It is very important to save and keep primary teeth as long as we can because they help guide the eruption and position of permanent teeth. If primary teeth are extracted early due to cavities, this can sometimes create orthodontic problems, which can lengthen the amount of time your child may be in braces either be Metal or clear braces such as Invisalign.
Many parents ask when is the best time to start incorporating flossing into their child’s brushing routine. I typically recommend to parents to slowly introduce flossing into their child’s oral hygiene routine around age two that way they can initially become familiar with the sensation of the floss sliding between their teeth and gums. Once they notice that their child’s baby teeth are touching against one another, which is typically around age three or four, they can go ahead and start flossing daily.
The recommended age for bringing in your child to see a pediatric dentist is when they become 1 year old. By this time your kids dentist will be able to let you know about when and how to start flossing your child’s teeth. By the time your child turns two, your child should already be acclimated to brushing and flossing can be easier because they have already developed the trust with their parents when it comes to oral hygiene.
As many of you may have seen, there are two different types of floss sold at stores; string floss, which is the floss you wrap around your fingers, and floss pick, which is floss attached to a y-shaped pick. Both types of floss are effective to remove food and bacteria between your teeth and gums. However, the floss pick may be easier to use on a wiggly child. We have found the best way for parents to floss their child’s teeth is when their child is laying down and the parent stands from behind and gently flosses their teeth. This position allows the parents to have better access and visibility of their child’s teeth and the child is less likely to wiggle their head around. You can also make flossing a game for your child. Grab a large Lego block and place fruit snacks or Play Dough between the lego and have your child use yarn to floss the snack out of the lego.
Once your child is comfortable with flossing and knows how to do it properly, remind them to floss daily. It’s important to get any leftover debris to prevent the growth of plaque and tooth decay. These days, there are many ways to make brushing teeth and flossing fun every day. I suggests playing songs or using a small hourglass to encourage children to practice dental hygiene. There are also cute, colorful, minty flosses for kids in interesting shapes to make it more enjoyable.
Dr. Nanna is a pediatric dentist at Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry in John’s Creek, GA. She has years of experience treating children and she loves making dentistry fun for them and their families. For more information please visit your local pediatric dentist or contact Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry for your child’s dental visit.