Flossing and your toddler

You’ve finally found a good rhythm with brushing your toddler’s teeth, but suddenly there’s a new factor to add to the equation, and it’s one that plenty of adults still haven’t totally mastered: flossing.

Young children are at great risk for cavities – nearly half of kids experience at least one cavity in their baby teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flossing can help fight against cavities by removing plaque and food buildup between the teeth, where cavities commonly form.

When should I start flossing?

As soon as Baby has two teeth growing side by side, it’s a good idea to break out the floss. With younger toddlers, there are often gaps between the teeth, to leave space in the mouth for more teeth to grow. If there are gaps between your toddler’s teeth, there’s less reason to worry about flossing, since just brushing thoroughly can do a good job of keeping the space between the teeth clean. However, once they have their full set of baby teeth, they will begin to fit closer together. Once at least two teeth are touching, it’s time to start flossing.

How do I make flossing fun?

It’s very common for young children to resist having their teeth brushed, and adding flossing to the routine can make tooth-brushing time trickier. Still, it’s best to start early so flossing becomes a normal part of the routine, and so their teeth get off to the cleanest possible start. Flossing may never be Baby’s favorite part of the day, but there are ways you can help them adjust to flossing more easily.

  • Demonstrate on yourself: To help Baby get used to the idea of flossing, you can help soothe any fears about it that they might have before you even get started by taking some floss and letting them watch you work it through your own teeth, and telling them all about how clean your teeth feel once you’re done.
  • Choose fun floss: Dental floss for children comes in different shapes, colors, and even flavors. Look for floss that will excite Baby, like floss with a case in the shape of an animal they like, and start there. Floss with fruity flavors could also help make the experience more fun, or at least more interesting.
  • Start simple: Ultimately, a routine that involves daily flossing is the best way to keep Baby’s shiny new teeth nice and clean, but keeping your expectations realistic at the beginning can help you and Baby ease into dental hygiene. Work the floss through Baby’s teeth gently, and try not to get frustrated if they squirm and resists. Try flossing a few days a week at first, and work toward flossing each night to keep that smile healthy and bright!

  • “Children’s Oral Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, November 10 2014. Web.
  • “Babies and Kids: Healthy Habits.” Mouth Healthy. American Dental Association, 2017. Web.

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