Children and flossing

Do children need their teeth flossed ? Yes - every day! Even with regular brushing , if you're not flossing often and correctly, you acn get buildup between your teeth that over time can break down the enamel and form a cavity. This happens even faster in baby teeth that adult teeth.

There is more than one way to floss. The traditional technique is to get a good long piece of floss and wind it around your middle fingers. Make sure you're getting past the tight part and on the sides of the tooth and softly under the gum area. Repeat across the whole mouth, and you;re on your way to a nice clean mouth! 


Why to floss baby teeth

Flossing gets into the spots your toothbrush can't. If your child has ANY tooth in their mouth that is touching another tooth, that area needs to be flossed.  This almost always includes the molars in the back and sometimes teeth in the front.  You do not have to floss between two teeth that you can see between. Gaps in children's teeth not only are adorable, but mean your child is less likely to get cavities in between them, and will have more room for the adult teeth. Flossing your teeth plays an important role in keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Flossing also helps keep your breath fresh!  Your teeth and gums benefit every time you floss - so now is a good time to start!

Three options to floss your child's teeth

1. Use around 45cm of floss - or whatever length allows you to wind the floss around both middle fingers and hold it comfortably. Support the floss across the pads of your index fingers. Waxed floss is easier to use.  Children often can't master this technique until around 11-12 years old.

2.  Use around 30cm of floss - tie the two ends in a knot so you now have a circle of floss.  Support the floss across the pads of your index fingers.  Benefits over method #1: you use less floss, you don't cut off the circulation to your fingers, and you can use more 'clean' floss as you keep rotating the dirty part away.  Children often can't master this technique until around 11-12 years old.

3.  Use a commercial floss holder to string your floss into.  They also have pre-made disposable holders called 'flossettes' or 'flossers.' These are often available at pharmacies or your dental office.  After children have become masters at brushing their own teeth (around 8 years old) they can often be taught how to use these properly.  Pros: easier for you and your children.  Cons: more expensive and does not do as good of a job cleaning the gums.

Flossing tips

When flossing (and brushing) your child's teeth, you may find it easier to have the child's head in your lap (like the way a dentist would look at your teeth) or to position yourself behind your child with their head to the side of your chest.

Insert the floss between two teeth coming straight down between the teeth using a sawing back-and-forth motion rather than an up-and-down motion. Be gentle - don't snap it in to place.

Hug the side of your tooth so it curves around your tooth (in a 'C' shape) and slips underneath the gums. Move the floss up and down. Then repeat on the tooth right next to the one you just cleaned.

Each time you get down between two teeth to floss, you have 2 surfaces to clean.  You can also think of it as cleaning both sides of the 'pink triangle' that is formed by your gums where two teeth come together. Move up and down the length of floss to use a clean bit each time and replace the floss if it becomes soiled or used up.

Floss once a day, whenever is convenient for you.  Often it is easiest for parents to help their children at bedtime.  

Floss before brushing so that any food you dislodged can then be brushed away. Your gums may bleed the first few times you floss since your gums are not used to being cleaned.

As your gums become healthier the bleeding should stop. If it persists, consult your dentist.

Remember: for children, the most important function of floss is to clean between the teeth, thus preventing cavities between the teeth.  These 'flossing cavities' are very common cavities to see on children as young as 2 years old, so prevention is extremely important.

The information displayed is for information only and is not a substitute for professional dental advice or treatment for specific dental conditions. Please contact your professional dental healthcare provider if you have specific questions about any dental matters.”



This article was written for by Lumino The Dentists.

Last revised: Friday, 12 June 2015

This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.