May is Dental Care Awareness Month

Good oral hygiene starts at home. Teaching children to brush and floss daily at an early age can help reduce tooth decay and prepare them for a healthy, lifelong smile. Dental Care Awareness Month is a good time to encourage families and caregivers to review their child’s dental care routine to ensure flossing is a primary part of their preventive dental care.

The Importance of Flossing Among Children

According to the CDC, over half of children (52%) from 6 to 8 years old, have had a cavity in their primary (baby) teeth. Untreated cavities can cause pain from infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, and learning.

Brushing two (2) times a day for at least two (2) minutes with a fluoride toothpaste is the first step in keeping teeth and gums healthy. Brushing helps remove most dental plaque, however, brushing alone cannot remove plaque in between teeth and under the gums, where a toothbrush cannot reach. This is a primary area for cavities among children. *Flossing daily helps prevents cavities by removing dental plaque and food particles between teeth.

Dental plaque is a sticky film that is always forming on your teeth. Plaque contains cavity-causing bacteria that feed on leftover food and sugar in your mouth. These bacteria produce an acid that harms tooth enamel, the outer shell of a tooth, causing cavities.

When Should I Start to Floss My Child’s Teeth?

Many parents are hesitant to floss their child’s teeth or don’t know when to start. Once your child has two teeth that touch one another, start using dental floss at least once a day. This usually happens when a child is 2 to 3 years old. It is important for flossing to become part of your child’s dental care routine.

How Can I Help My Child Floss Daily?

Children often need help with flossing until they are 8 to 10 years old, this is when their hands are ready to hold the floss and carefully move it between their teeth. Flossing daily can be a challenge, but you can do activities to make it a positive experience, including:

  • Demonstrating how to floss by flossing your own teeth.
  • Being patient and flexible.
  • Rewarding flossing efforts.
  • Find a time to floss that works well with you and your child and stick to it.

Additional Flossing Aids

There are other types of flossing aids available to help parents and caregivers keep their children’s teeth and gums healthy. Flossing aids such as floss picks, floss holders, or interdental brushes may be helpful when teaching your child how to floss and/or if you or your child have limited use in your/their arms or hands. Make sure to speak with the dentist or hygienist if you have questions about which type to use and proper flossing techniques.

*Remember to floss daily. No matter what age, flossing is just as important as brushing to keep teeth and gums healthy.

Related Resources

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