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Teach Your Child How to Floss Their Teeth

Flossing is an essential part of your child’s self-care routine. Flossing prevents the build up of plaque on and between the teeth.

Plaque is a sticky yellow substance that forms on teeth after eating carbohydrates such as bread, milk, raisins, soft drinks, cakes and candy. If not removed by brushing and flossing, bacteria grows on the plaque, forming an acid that leads to tooth decay. Plaque can even get down past gums and destroy the root and damage the bone supporting the teeth.

Teaching your child to floss once a day after brushing will help prevent cavities and help keep that beautiful smile beautiful!


Young babies need us to care for their teeth until around age two. Cleaning your baby’s teeth with a soft washcloth held over one finger will get him used to oral care. As soon as two teeth appear you can begin flossing gently.

Children need help with brushing until about age 3 or 4. They will not be able to floss effectively until age 8 or 9. Until then you need to perform flossing every night before bedtime, right after a good two minute brushing.

Sit with your child on your lap facing you. Follow this flossing technique taken directly from Colgate’s World of Care “Oral and Dental Health at Any Age”:

  • Take about 18 inches of dental floss and wrap one end around each of your middle fingers.
  • Using your thumbs and index fingers as guides, gently slide the floss between two teeth, using a saw-like motion.
  • Once at the gum line, pull both ends of the floss in the same direction to form a C shape against one tooth.
  • Pull the floss tightly and move it up and down against one tooth.
  • Pull the floss against the other tooth and repeat the motion.
  • Repeat this for all of the teeth. Be sure to floss both sides of the teeth farthest back in the mouth.

Doing this every night before bed will provide the pattern needed to help your youngster develop good oral hygiene habits.
Main points to address:

  • Flossing removes plaque with harms teeth and gums.
  • Children are not ready to floss by themselves until 8 or 9 years old.
  • There is a specific flossing technique that best removes plaque.

Grades K-3rd

Young school age children are beginning to brush their own teeth. They still need help flossing until 8 or 9 years old.

It is helpful to have your child watch you floss your own teeth. Watching the grip and motions used will help them when it’s time to take on this task.

When your child seems ready to floss, schedule a trip to the dentist. Have the hygienist instruct your child on the correct method of flossing. Hopefully the hygienist will let your child show her how they do it so correction can occur before ineffective methods become habit.

Go to the store together and purchase floss just for your child. They will feel proud being able to perform this task independently.

You will need to continue to supervise your child and check for completeness until you are sure they are consistently doing a good job.

Main points to address:

  • Model good flossing for your child.
  • Take a trip to the dentist so the hygienist can formally instruct your child.
  • Supervise flossing until you are certain they are flossing effectively.

Grades 4-6th

Children this age may still need to be reminded to floss, but for most the habit will be in place. Make sure your child has their own oral care supplies and that they are brushing at least twice a day and flossing every night before bed.

Having a small travel case for sleepovers will promote oral care when your child is not with you. Your child may even want to take a brush, toothpaste and floss to school with them.

The dentist will be able to tell if flossing has been done correctly. If necessary, have the dentist or hygienist review the technique during visits.

Helping your child develop good oral habits will give you the satisfaction of knowing you’ve given them a good start on keeping that beautiful smile beautiful!

Main points to address:

  • Your child should have their own oral hygiene supplies and travel case.
  • You may still need to remind and/or supervise your child’s flossing.

Resources that can help you in your venture include:

Posted in Health.

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