The importance of oral hygiene for children
Teeth are an integral part of overall health and with proper care, many people can keep their teeth for a lifetime. Good oral health should begin early – even before a child’s first teeth erupt. Baby teeth generally start to peek through the gums at six months of age.
Baby teeth, in addition to allowing a child to eat and speak, "hold the space" for adult teeth that will develop later. Parents are crucial in caring for their children's mouths and assisting them in developing good oral hygiene habits. Before the child turns one, a visit to the dental hygienist is recommended, followed by regular visits.
Cavities are very common in North American children. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning.
When should I start flossing my child's teeth?
Even your child's baby should be flossed (or primary teeth). Flossing is an important part of your child's oral health once their teeth begin to fit closely together, which is usually between the ages of two and six.
When can children floss their teeth by themselves?
Until your child can floss their teeth on their own, you should help them floss to get them in the habit of flossing daily. Children are usually able to floss by themselves around the age of 10.
How can I help them learn to floss?
Do it for them regularly until they can do it themselves to emphasize the importance of flossing and help them develop a good flossing habit. You want to instill the healthy habit of daily flossing in them as early as possible so that when their permanent teeth come in, they already have flossing incorporated into their daily routine.
Use floss that is soft and flexible so that it doesn't hurt their teeth and is comfortable on their gums.
Flossing is so very important in maintaining healthy gums and teeth, and it is better to start early than late.
How to get your child to be enthusiastic about flossing
Set up a simple game or activity to provide entertainment as well as an understanding of the importance of flossing to get your child excited about the idea of flossing. A peanut butter flossing activity is one suggestion. Allow your child to spread peanut butter between your fingers while wearing a rubber glove. Explain how this is similar to plaque and food becoming stuck between our teeth when we do not floss and allow plaque to accumulate. Then, using a piece of floss, instruct your child to try to scrape off all of the peanut butter.
This activity, or something similar, can be a great way to entice your child into trying to floss more often.