The American Dental Association recommends that your child floss at least once a day to prevent dental issues such as tooth decay and gum disease. They also recommend that your child start flossing as soon as they have two or more teeth that touch, which is usually around the age of 2 or 3. However, flossing is one of the less-liked parts of many children’s daily dental routines. Unfortunately, a disdain for flossing usually lasts into adulthood, as proven by a recent study cited in US News which found that only one third of American adults floss daily, while another one third flossed occasionally, and the last third never flossed.
So how, exactly, do you not only teach your children how to floss, but how do you make it fun enough that they will continue this routine on their own? Just as there are strategies you can use to encourage your children to brush their teeth twice a day, there are also ways to entice them to floss. Here are some tips to keep your child flossing:
Try Dental Floss Picks
Learning how to use floss can be tricky, especially for younger children. To make flossing easier on your child and to prevent excess frustration towards flossing, it may be helpful to have them use dental floss picks that already have floss pre-strung on an easy to use handle. As your child learns how to use the dental floss pick, you can eventually have them graduate to traditional dental floss as they get older. In some cases, however, children simply prefer to stick with using dental floss picks.
An easy way to teach your child to floss and to show them the importance of flossing daily is to floss with them daily. You can start by having your child watch what you do as you explain it, and then they can try it on their own. At first, you may need to help your child floss their teeth until they are old enough to maneuver the floss themselves. Also flossing with your child allows you to make sure that they are actually flossing and that you are there if they need any help.
As nice as it would be to say that you only need to teach your child to floss once, you can expect to have to consistently show your child how to floss in order to reinforce the right behavior. It can be helpful to start each daily flossing session with a quick review where you show your child how to floss and then help them floss their own teeth.
Be Prepared to Take Over
Proper flossing technique can be tough to master, especially for younger children. Therefore, you should not only be present while your child is flossing, but you should also be prepared to take over if necessary. This is especially important if you notice your child making mistakes that can actually be harmful to their oral health, such as snapping the floss against their gums. If you need to take over, be sure to explain to your child what they are doing wrong and how to fix it. Then, provide them the option to try again after you have corrected their technique.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Kids generally respond well to positive reinforcement, especially when it comes to doing routine tasks. Setting up an incentive system for your child that entails rewards for things like brushing, flossing, and dental appointments can make taking care of their oral health a positive thing. In addition to using positive reinforcement to encourage your child to take care of their oral health, you will also want to avoid using negative reinforcement. Trying to scare your child into flossing can unfortunately make them less likely to take care of their teeth and can even make them fearful of anything related to their oral health.