“How young is too young to start flossing?”
“How long can I go without flossing?”
“How long has it been since I last flossed?”
“How can I trust my child to floss regularly without them hacking into their gums?”
The truth is, whether your child is under a year or in their preteens, dental health and questions about oral care can often sit on the back burner. These are questions you may not find yourself asking because physical health and mental growth can seem so much more pressing.
What most of us do not realize is that our dental health actually has a significant impact on our overall health. A truly healthy body does not coexist with a mouth that is decayed and infected.
So what’s the big deal about flossing?
Regardless of age, flossing is incredibly important because it cleans areas of your teeth a traditional toothbrush does not. The crevices between our teeth can store the most bacteria out of anywhere else in our mouth and can cause gum sensitivity and infection. In fact, the Academy of General Dentistry says that flossing is the most important weapon against plaque.
Did you know that if you never floss, you’re only cleaning two thirds of your teeth? Imagine going months or even years only cleaning certain parts of your body. Everybody would really start to notice after a while!
You (or your kids) may retort: “I don’t have time to floss every single day.” That’s okay! While once daily is of course a good idea, dentists everywhere would agree that flossing as little as twice a week is better than not doing it at all.
Toddlers especially do not need to worry about flossing until their teeth begin to touch. When this happens, teach them how to hold the floss (between both hands, wrapped around their pointer and middle finger), and go in between the teeth gently. Once there, be sure to go over the edges of the teeth where it arches into the gums. You may have to do this until your child has developed the strength in their hands to do it on their own.
– To prevent bleeding, be sure to floss regularly and not cram floss through the teeth quickly, especially if it tends to get stuck. If waxed floss seems too thick, instead use dental tape. It is smoother and thinner.
– Unwaxed floss is rougher and will squeak when the tooth is cleaned. It may be more challenging for kids.
– Pre-measured, disposable flossers are great for a once-over but do not work well for people with bridgework.
– Waterpicks are not an alternative to flossing as they simply loosen debris (which is why they are excellent for individuals with braces, dentures, and those recovering from wisdom teeth removal).
Gingivitis is a condition that develops when gums do not have proper exposure to a proper cleaning. If you or your child flosses rarely or not at all, gums will become sensitive, bleed, and can even develop infections. While gingivitis is fairly common and can be cured very easily (flossing more), if action is not taken, eventually it can spiral into periodontitis, or gum disease; which is the root of many heart and lung conditions that can actually be fatal. It may take years of neglect to get to this point, it is still something to be aware of — and it says a LOT of how important cleaning in those hard-to-reach places can actually be!