You’ve probably heard time and time again that flossing is important. But just how important is it, and how do you explain that to your little ones? Simply brushing their teeth two times a day isn’t enough to maintain a healthy mouth. If they don’t floss, they may leave bad bacteria and food debris behind to wreak havoc on their teeth and gums. Teaching your child the importance of flossing early on will help them carry this tooth-healthy habit into adulthood!

The Value of Flossing

So why should your child floss? Even though they will eventually lose their baby teeth, these teeth serve a purpose and play a crucial role in the future alignment of their adult teeth, proper speech development, and breaking down solid food. Baby teeth are also more susceptible to developing cavities, so flossing can help prevent decay by cleaning the areas that a toothbrush can’t quite reach.

What Happens if Your Child Doesn’t Floss?

In addition to protecting your little one’s teeth from cavities, flossing can also prevent a variety of dental issues from occurring, such as:

  • Bad Breath: When food and bacteria are left between teeth or at the gumline, they can start to smell over time. Brushing AND flossing your child’s teeth helps their breath stay fresh!
  • Tooth Discoloration: Bad bacteria and sugar—that a toothbrush can’t brush away—can wear down tooth enamel and expose the dentin (yellow bone tissue) underneath, making teeth appear more yellow than before.
  • Gum Disease: Simply brushing your child’s teeth won’t get rid of all of the plaque and bacteria located at or below the gum-line. This leftover bacteria can cause gingivitis and, if left untreated, full-blown periodontitis.

What Age Should My Child Start Flossing? 

Children should start flossing when their teeth are close enough together that food particles and debris may get trapped in between them. Usually, this is around the age 2 or 3. While they may not be able to floss on their own at this age, it’s important that you do it so they can get used to having it as part of their dental hygiene routine. As they gain more motor skills and get older, they should be able to do it themselves—with a little guidance—by age 8 or 9. However, every child is different!

Tips For Getting Your Little One to Floss

When your child is old enough to floss on their own, they probably won’t want to do it—especially after they just completed two minutes of brushing. One of the best ways to teach them the importance of this step is to show them. You can floss with them or even allow them to “help” you floss your teeth. Setting a good example is a great way to instill in your child that taking care of their smile is essential. You can also use a kid-friendly video or book that explains the value of flossing so they can learn about it in an easy-to-understand, lighthearted format. Once they learn about the benefits, they may be more inclined to participate. A flavored flossing product or a flossing game can help motivate them, too!

For adults and children alike, flossing plays an important role in helping to keep teeth and gums in tip-top shape. While it may seem tedious, your smile will thank you. Creating strong dental habits from the get-go will put kids on the right path towards a lifetime of great oral health!

Mathew Petersen works as the lead dentist and owner of Las Cruces Dental Solutions in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Las Cruces Dental Solutions offers comprehensive, exceptional dental care to patients of all ages and utilizes leading-edge technology to ensure patients receive the highest quality care. Dr. Petersen believes that patient education and transparency are vital components of encouraging patients to be active participants in their dental health care decisions.

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