My parents were (and still are) flossing fanatics so I learned how to floss not long after my first teeth came in (okay, that may not be quite accurate, but I was definitely very little). In this guest post, Jon Engle, shares some helpful strategies that moms and dads everywhere can use to get the kiddies to get into the flossing habit early.
Great oral health care habits are things that should be taught from a very young age so children can continue to use them throughout their lives in order to maintain great oral health. While teaching proper techniques will take plenty of time and patience, it is a lifelong lesson which will benefit them throughout their entire life. Most children begin to show an interest in brushing their teeth at a young age because they see their parents brushing their teeth so often and want to develop the independence of being able to brush their own teeth instead of having them brushed for them. Oddly enough, this is usually not the case for flossing. Properly using dental floss will require much more one-on-one teaching in order to assure the child will develop the habit young.
While children will be able to brush their teeth effectively by the age of three or four with proper teaching, it is likely they will not develop the skills needed to properly floss until the age of seven or eight. Until this age, it is important for the parent to not only aid them in flossing, but to also allow them to watch the parent floss their own teeth. This will show them proper technique and allow the child to mirror it once they are capable of flossing their own teeth. It is also very important to reinforce the multitude of benefits flossing provides. If the child knows just how important flossing is to maintaining good oral hygiene, they will be more likely to continue these habits throughout their life.
When it becomes apparent that the child is ready to floss their own teeth, do not allow them to floss by themselves. By flossing together, it allows the parent to supervise the child and correct them if they make a mistake, but the parent also serves as a present example of proper technique. Teaching a child how to floss can also serve as a way to teach them in other ways, as well. For instance, flossing requires 18 inches of floss in order to prevent reaching for more floss over and over. To get the proper technique down, sometimes it is best to compare the back and forth motion to sawing wood. This helps to draw a visual comparison for the child. It can also be fun for the parent and child to measure the floss by using a cloth tape measure or a yard stick. This will also help teach them measurements and length. It can also be very motivational if the parent takes the child to the store in order to pick out their very own floss. This allows for the child to feel very important and also feel a certain sense of independence, which will give them more of a drive to floss.
If the parent becomes frustrated that the child is not getting it correct, it is important not to blow up. Remember: flossing requires a high sense of motivational skills and can be overwhelming for the child. It is important to remain calm during this time and to always lead by example – even if this means flossing more than regular. In the off chance that the parent cannot seem to convey the proper flossing technique to the child, take them to visit their regular dentist, who will happily show them how to floss. This may be beneficial as it is an authoritative figure rather than a parent showing the importance off daily oral care.
No matter how long it takes to teach a child to floss well, know that in the end it will save them from a world of oral care trouble.