Do you remember the age you started flossing?
Do you still struggle, as an adult, to floss daily?
The truth is, some of our longest-lasting habits begin at a young age. Small tasks like combing our hair or tying our shoes begin in the earliest years, long before we’ve fully developed the strength in our hands to master them.
For children, these serve as mile markers on their road to independence, as they should: learning these basic skills are those which they will use the rest of their life. Anyone who has kids knows celebrating these baby steps of development can be really special to watch unfold. Everyone has their firsts, right?
What to Look For
Kids usually have all of their baby teeth by the time they are two years old. As their mouths grow, change, and new teeth begin arriving, the space in between closes up. Experts suggest that teeth come closer together anywhere between 2 to 6 years old; basically the time between a child gets all their teeth, and the age they typically begin losing them to larger, adult teeth.
When your child’s teeth look like they’re touching, this is the time to instill the habit of flossing. Tight spaces can be a breeding ground for bacteria, which is a place a toothbrush simply cannot reach.
By age 2, it is recommended that a child has seen a dentist at least once. So if you are unsure about beginning to floss, ask your pediatric dentist at your child’s next appointment and they will be able to tell you when the time is right. Again, every child is different.
How to Start
Depending on how old, they may insist trying to floss on their own. But remember, even if they are almost 6 or so, they will not have the full strength and dexterity in their hands to floss properly until they are at least 10.
Establish habits, and establish them early. You can do this by setting a good example and showing your child the proper technique before you do it to them.
Start by taking a generous amount of floss (roughly 18 inches), and hold it at either end with both hands. Then, wrap your finger around towards the center, until there is about an inch of floss remaining. This is what you will use in between the teeth. Every few teeth or so, unwrap and re-wrap the floss so that the inch is at a different place in the floss.
Gently glide in between each tooth using back-and-forth motions. Make sure your child sees this, so they know not to simply just plunge the floss deep into the gums (ouch!)
Old Habits Die Hard
Once this is developed, it can become a part of a child’s routine, and they can become quicker at it so it is not seen as an incredibly time-consuming chore. If this is the case, flossing will be done less and less and become a thing of the past. This means bloody gums at their next dental appointment (more ouch!) and flossing will be that much harder to get back into.
Set a good example, and teach your child to floss every day. It will be a skill they will carry with them the rest of their life!