Learning to brush their own teeth is a lesson all children must master. Although parents ultimately may have children who become proficient at brushing their own teeth, getting them to floss is generally more difficult.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 41 percent of children aged 2 to 11 had tooth decay in their first teeth. Dental caries are common among children, likely because they have not become proficient at taking care of their teeth.
Soft, sticky foods are commonplace in young kids' diets, and these can promote decay. Even well-intentioned gummy vitamins can be sources of dental decay. Oftentimes, these foods become lodged between the teeth or on the surface of molars. If left in contact with the teeth for too long, food particles become a source of carbohydrates for oral bacteria, and cavities may appear as a result.
To remove food particles from between the teeth, children must floss, advises the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists. It is recommended that parents help their children to floss as soon as two teeth are touching and continue to do so until the child is around the age of 8, when a child should have enough dexterity to do it on his or her own.
Flossing is essential to making sure children do not experience cavities at an early age, and it can establish practices that promote oral health throughout life. Despite being so important, many parents fail to encourage flossing or are at a loss as to how to make it enjoyable and effective.
Although regular dental floss is one of the first tools for flossing, the dexterity required to wind the floss around little fingers and then thoroughly clean the teeth may discourage children. Parents can look into the wide array of flossing helpers available at the store. In fact, many age-appropriate flossers are now available that feature fun designs and smaller profiles to fit into kids' mouths more easily. Flossers may be attached to a handle to make back teeth more accessible and promote more effective flossing. Manufacturers such as DenTek, Butler GUM, Plackers Kids, Dr. Fresh, Oral-B, and Brush Buddies offer children's flossers.
Kids who shy away from flossing may be more likely to use a children's water flosser. In lieu of string floss, a water flosser uses a pressurized stream of water to dislodge food from between teeth. Although a water flosser may be more messy, children may enjoy the opportunity to "play" with water and the cleaning sensation provided.
To prevent the buildup of plaque and the development of dental caries, parents should educate children about proper flossing techniques.