So, you just got a handle on the whole brushing routine when Baby’s dentist throws you a curveball by handing you floss at the end of their appointment. Now what?
Flossing can bring a whole new battle to the teeth-cleaning routine, but it’s an important step to introduce at this time to keep your little one’s teeth as healthy as possible. Cavities are common in young children, and often form between teeth. This happens when food and bacteria get stuck there, which is why flossing, which helps to dislodge food and bacteria before they can do much damage, cuts down on the risk of cavities.
Still flossing and toddlers can feel like a tricky combination, and it can be helpful to have some specific ideas about where to get started.
- Use appropriate gear: For toddlers, using floss sticks in place of regular floss can be a less intimidating place to start. These sticks come in fun colors, and some are even flavored. The sticks are softer, too, and easier to hold, making it a more comfortable experience.
- Stick with a routine: The best time to floss is after dinner so all the food from the day can be removed. Flossing right after brushing, before bed, and being consistent about it, can help them begin to get used to flossing as an expected part of their day.
- Make it interactive: Let Baby get used to the floss by letting them hold the floss and try to floss on their own, before showing them how it’s really done. You may decide to brush and floss your own teeth next to them, then let them know they are up next. Seeing you floss, and getting used to this new object, will help keep them from getting nervous about it.
- Be mindful of the timing: Since some toddlers are still teething at this age, it’s extra important to be gentle when flossing their sensitive gums. You may decide to skip the painful areas where teeth are about to come up until teething is over.
- Keep the explanation simple: Let’s face it: someone maneuvering floss in between your teeth isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. If Baby puts up a fight, or asks why they need to floss, explain it in a way they'll understand – cavities are bad and can hurt, and the floss is going to fight off the yucky stuff to keep their teeth happy.
Flossing can feel like a difficult thing to add the bedtime routine, especially if Baby is already resisting when it’s time for bed, but their teeth will thank you later!