Dental care isn’t limited to brushing. Flossing is a vital part of the equation. It is more important as it can remove plaques that brushing can’t and thus play an important role to prevent tooth decay and bad breath. Flossing should be done at least once a day and it should start as soon as teeth touch each other. This is usually around 2 to 3 years old. Flossing in children is easier said than done, though. Kids don’t like thready materials in their mouth and they have difficulty doing it . Before the age of 8, children need help in flossing.

How to assist children in flossing

· Younger children need an adult to do the flossing for them. Cut enough floss as you would for yourself, that’s about 18 cm, and gently floss your child’s teeth while explaining each step. Make sure the direction is up and down and not side to side. The purpose of flossing is to remove the plaque. A side-to-side motion will damage the gums and will be painful to the child.

· Older children want independence and will insist on flossing themselves. For this age group, it is better to show the proper way to do it and let them perform it back to you. You can adapt a reward system every time they do it correctly.

· Make flossing and brushing a fun family time. Don’t treat oral care as some sort of chore that you have to do. Make it enjoyable by having traditions and rituals like assigning a brushing song or a 2-minute podcast.

· Experiment with different floss flavors. Like children’s toothpaste, dental floss also comes in a variety of flavors. You can buy different flavors and assign a flavor each day. This way, children will look forward to flossing time. Children love surprises. You can keep the flavor a secret and reveal it only during brushing time.

Different ways to floss

There are several ways to floss and all them achieve the ultimate goals of removing plaques, debris and polishing the teeth. Here are several ways to do it

· Wrapping the floss around your finger. Cut the floss about 18 to 20 cm long and wrap it around your middle fingers. The index finger and thumb will then hold it and do the actual flossing.

· Tying the floss on both ends. The length is the same as above but the difference is you tie both ends and slip all four fingers inside. The thumb stays outside. The same motion then follows.

· Pre-threaded flosser. These are the most convenient types of floss when flossing your child’s teeth. They are ready to use and the floss is attached to the floss holder. No more cutting and slipping. This is good for beginners and people with difficulty in locomotion.

Remember to teach children that flossing should be done before brushing. Brushing removes all the debris removed by flossing. Use clean parts of the floss for each tooth so you won’t be reintroducing debris all over again.  Flossing and brushing are essential for good oral care. Good health habits start early and as parents, it is our job to help our children develop and sustain these habits for life.