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Why Flossing Is a Must, Not a Maybe

Flossing is an essential part of everyone’s oral hygiene routine. If you don’t remove plaque where it’s hard to reach with a toothbrush, you’re at a greater risk of developing decay and gum disease. Brushing simply isn’t enough if you want healthy teeth and gums. Most dental professionals and organizations recommend flossing at least once a day, including your dentist, the CDC, the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Dental Association.

Everyone dislikes hearing they have cavities. Brushing twice a day and flossing once can prevent the acid in plaque from causing cavities because it removes plaque before it can do damage. There are also other things you can do to prevent cavities, including limiting your intake or sugary drinks and foods.

Flossing can help keep more than your mouth healthy. Plaque is the primary cause of gum disease and having gum disease can increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes, stroke or heart disease. Other health issues linked to the bacteria in gum disease include respiratory infections, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Kids Need to Floss at an Early Age

As soon as a young child gets their first tooth, they can get a cavity. As soon as they get two teeth together, usually between ages two and four, they can get a cavity in between them. Toddlers can’t floss by themselves; you will have to do it for them, but you can start to teach them good flossing habits.

Gently floss with a hand-held flosser, as this will be easier on both you and your child. It will help save your child from getting painful cavities in their baby teeth. Once a cavity forms, the decay spreads rapidly in baby teeth as the enamel isn’t as strong as it is in adult teeth. Even if your child does not have two teeth touching, you can still introduce your child to flossing. It won’t overwhelm them if you make it manageable and fun from an early age.

How to Encourage Kids to Floss

Getting kids to floss isn’t easy, but you can find ways to encourage them.

  • Lead by Example – Floss your child’s teeth or teach them to floss while you’re flossing your own teeth. Show them why flossing is important; don’t just tell them.
  • Make a Chart – Give them a star for each day they floss. Offer a small reward for filling their brushing and flossing chart, but don’t make it candy or a sugary snack. Try sugarless gum, stickers or bubbles. Some kids do better with a daily reward, such as letting them watch a favorite TV show if they’ve flossed or reading their favorite bedtime story for younger children.
  • Make Flossing Fun – Let them play a song while they floss to make the time go faster. You can also make up a song and sing it to them. Take any children’s song and change to words to make it about flossing. Fun apps like Chomper Chums® make brushing and flossing fun for small kids. Chomper Chums has cute animal characters that kids feed by getting coins for when they brushing and flossing.
  • Choose Child-specific Tools – Use handheld flossers in fun shapes made specifically for kid’s small mouths. Let them choose their own flossers, toothbrush and toothpaste. There are flavored flosses that kids may prefer. Buy products with the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance to ensure safety and effectiveness. Baby teeth are spaced further apart than adult teeth. Your child may find dental tape, meant for widely spaced teeth, easier to use. It’s flat and easier for small fingers to hold. This may work for children who want to use a floss like their parents.
  • Give Praise – Tell your child most children can floss on their own when they reach age six or seven. See if you can encourage them to do better to show how mature they are. They should have the manual dexterity to hold a flosser with a handle meant for children.
  • Find Books and Magazines – Next time you visit the library or bookstore, look for children’s books about flossing. Many focus on toothbrushing, but they also touch on flossing.

How To Floss the Right Way

The American Dental Hygienists Association suggests the following four easy steps for foolproof flossing:

  1. Take a foot and a half of floss and wind it between your index finger and thumb on each hand so you have a tight strand to work with. Standard dental floss is a thin nylon thread sold as waxed or unwaxed. Waxed dental floss fits better between crowded teeth.
  2. Use your index finger to guide the floss, relaxing it into a C shape to clean both sides between teeth. Try to get under the gumline, but don’t jab the floss in your gums.
  3. Use a clean section one- to two-inch section of floss between each tooth. You don’t want to spread bacteria throughout your mouth.
  4. Brush your teeth afterward or rinse well to remove bits of food you’ve dislodged from between your teeth.

While regular dental floss is an excellent option for most people, some individuals lack the manual dexterity to floss effectively. If you have trouble manually flossing or you’re wearing braces, you can use a water flosser, which uses water pressure to clean in between teeth. A water flosser also can keep the areas in between brackets and wires clean. If you have an oral appliance, your dentist may also recommend super floss. It has regular floss, a spongy part and threads so it can clean around braces and bridges.

Another option is an interproximal brush. It is a straight wire with bristles and a holder for your fingers on the end. They come is various widths depending on how tightly spaced your teeth are. Interproximal brushes resemble the brushes you would use to clean glassware with a narrow neck. They are just as effective as traditional flossing and easier to use for some people.

If you floss every day, it will become as automatic as brushing your teeth. If you have any questions about your technique or you need a demonstration, call our family dentist at Advanced Dental Care of Florida for help. He or she will be glad to help you protect your teeth and gums from dental diseases that can cause tooth loss.

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