Do you have a hard time getting your kids to floss or worry that they’re not flossing correctly? Lots of kids resist flossing or just don’t do a good job of it. As your dentist could tell you, lots of adults have the same problem.
Get your kids in the habit of flossing correctly while they’re young so that it becomes a lifelong habit — one that they keep up with when they reach their adult years. If the daily battle over flossing is getting the best of you, don’t give up. There are ways to ensure cooperation from your kids and make sure that they’re flossing effectively.
Show, Don’t Tell
When you tell your kids how to floss, you might feel like your words are going in one ear and out the other. Even if your children are listening, they may not understand exactly what flossing does or why it’s important. You need to find ways to show them exactly what flossing does, and what can happen if they don’t floss.
Children’s books or videos that show visuals of what can happen when you don’t floss can be a big help. Pictures can sometimes have an impact where words don’t. Your dentist may be able to recommend some age-appropriate media materials.
Your child may also benefit from a hands-on activity, like a craft project. Try painting some egg cartons white and arrange them to look like teeth. Use clay to represent food particles stuck between the “teeth.” Ask your child to remove the clay with floss.
Another project involves smearing a rubber glove with peanut butter and letting your child remove the peanut butter with both floss and a toothbrush. Explain that the glove represents teeth and the peanut butter is like plaque. This will help your child understand that floss can remove plaque more effectively than a toothbrush can.
Demonstrate the Proper Flossing Method
Maybe your children don’t mind flossing, but you’re not sure that they’re actually getting their teeth as clean as they should. Proper flossing technique takes some time to learn, and your kids may not get it right without some help. In fact, often parents need a little bit of a refresher course themselves.
To begin with, make sure that your child is using enough floss. They need about 18 inches of to ensure that they have a clean area to use between each pair of teeth.
Help your child wind the floss around their middle fingers, leaving about an inch or two of space free to use for cleaning. Show them how to guide the floss with their thumbs and pointer fingers and make a C-shape with the floss to fit it around each tooth.
Be patient and realistic about how long you’ll need to help your child floss. Sometimes parents expect their children to be able to brush and floss by themselves earlier than they should. Dentists say that a child should be able to master flossing by about age 10. Don’t expect your child to be proficient at it sooner than that, even if they’re independent.
Let Your Child Choose the Flossing Tools
Let your child have some choice when it comes to flossing. They don’t get to decide whether or not they floss, but they’ll be more cooperative and engaged if you let them decide which way of flossing works best for them.
For example, some children might like minty-flavored floss. Other children find the mint too strong and prefer unflavored. If your child wears braces, they should use waxed floss — unwaxed floss can catch on the wires and shred. If your child doesn’t wear braces, they can choose either waxed or unwaxed. Not all children have a preference, but some may prefer one texture over the other.
You may also want to let your children try disposable handheld flossers. Some children find them easier to handle, since they don’t require threading floss around their fingers. If your child prefers handheld flossers, make sure that they have two or three per flossing session — when one gets shredded or full of food particles, they’ll need to switch to a clean one.
If your child really dislikes flossing, you may want to consider investing in a water flosser. This is more of an investment than a package of floss or handheld flossers, but it’s also much more comfortable than floss for some people.
Water flossers use water pressure and pulsation to clean between the teeth. This allows your child to get rid of plaque and food particles without the risk of cutting their gums with floss. A water flosser is also easier to use for many children because all they have to do is point the flosser tip at the gumline and between their teeth.
The next time you visit your family dentist, make sure to ask them to discuss flossing technique and the importance of flossing with your child as well. Sometimes a word from an expert is just what it takes to get your child on board. With these tips, your child can learn to floss the way they should.