Should Children Floss Their Teeth?

Encouraging the next generation towards a healthier mouth.

The number of adults using dental floss on their own teeth is only around 20%. Unfortunately this is far too low and means that around 80% of us are exposing ourselves to a higher risk of dental issues, including periodontal diseases. It is never too late to start flossing though, and even though some damage may have already been done, it will help to reduce the future risk.

We have also been asked a few times about children, and whether they should use dental floss. The straightforward answer to this is ‘yes’ they should. That is a simple position perhaps, but food and bacteria that gets stuck will damage young teeth just as much as older ones. In addition to this, we believe that  our younger Wickford dental patients will benefit greatly from starting this early and will hopefully continue to do so throughout their adult life.

Be a good role model

The first thing that we would say to anyone who asks this question is to be a good role model for your child. The vast majority of us are aware of this in our daily lives, perhaps making sure to hold doors open, say ‘thank you’ and generally being pleasant to people, partially in the hope that these habits will be picked up by our children.

The same thing should apply when it comes to your own oral care. If, for example, your young child hears you say that you can’t be bothered to clean your teeth because you are too tired, there is every chance that they will use this excuse too. Similarly, they will often pick up on the way that you clean your teeth. If they never see you use dental floss, then they are unlikely to do so themselves.

Especially when children are very young, it is a good idea to brush your teeth at the same time as them. By doing so, they will be able to observe the correct way to do it. If you are not sure about this yourself, you might find it useful to have a chat with our friendly hygienist who can offer advice on the best way to do this.

But what about flossing?

Even if you floss yourself and your child sees you do it, they are likely to find it very tricky at an early age. There are newer handheld flossing tools available that may make this much easier and it may be better to start them off using these. Where the children are too young to do even this, you should attempt to floss for them as best as you can. This is unlikely to be a total success, but will hopefully work to some degree. Do persist with this and eventually, you may find that your child will finally pick up the mantle and start to floss their teeth themselves.

Are there alternatives?

As flossing can be difficult for some people, and especially for young children, it is worth considering if there are any suitable alternatives to flossing our teeth, especially ones that are more practical for the younger generation. Our Cygnet Dental Practice team believe that dental floss is the best approach; however, there are other methods which can help to perform at least some of the roles that flossing does.

Water piks and water in general

Water piks are a relatively new type of tool to clean between the teeth. They use high pressure fine jets of water that are ‘blasted’ between the teeth. Some people find these useful but others less so, sometimes finding them to be messy and also unpleasant to use when the water jets go astray and hit the back of the throat.

Water can be useful here though. If you can encourage your children to vigorously swill water around their mouth and between their teeth before they brush them, this will at least help to remove much of the food that may have become trapped, along with some of the excess, harmful bacteria. It isn’t a perfect solution, but it is a relatively easy one to encourage them to do.

Chewing gum

Letting your kids chew gum before they brush their teeth is also a good way of getting rid of some food and bacteria from around the teeth. It is very important to make sure that this is a sugar free gum for obvious reasons. This should be an easier one to get them to do and, whilst not as effective as flossing, it will help them understand why it is important to clean between their teeth.  As they grow older, you can try to encourage them to swap from this method to the use of dental floss.

Whatever method you decide on to try to get your child to clean their teeth more effectively, it is important that you do select at least one. There is little worse than having a young child in pain with a toothache, especially when, with a little bit of effort, it is usually completely avoidable.

If you need any advice about either your own, or your child’s oral health care,  we are happy to assist you. Appointments can be made to see one of our Wickford dentists by calling the Cygnet Dental Practice on 01268 733078.