dental station with flossThere have been a few articles out lately that put into question whether flossing is still an important part of a daily routine for healthy teeth. Parents are confused by these conflicting articles and often ask, “Do my kids need to floss their teeth?” The answer is YES!  Read on to learn why.

What started the confusion about flossing?

Much of the conversation about whether flossing is important started when the federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion failed to include flossing from its dietary guidelines, which coincided with a report by the Associated Press that determined the evidence was “weak” for flossing being important in preventive oral health. However, not long after this report, many in the dental profession disputed the claim, and provided clarification on the role flossing plays in in overall oral health.

The American Dental Association stated that flossing is proven to help remove debris between teeth that can contribute to plaque buildup.” The ADA then defined how plaque buildup leads to disease. The American Academy of Periodontology emphasized that flossing allows for the removal of plaque bacteria and debris from areas in the mouth that brushing alone cannot reach and continues to recommend daily flossing. The American Dental Hygienists’ Association also voiced support of flossing with proper technique.

Why flossing is important

According to a statement by the American Dental Association (ADA), “Flossing is an important oral hygiene practice. Tooth decay and gum disease can develop when plaque is allowed to build up on teeth and along the gum line. Professional cleaning, tooth brushing, and cleaning between teeth (flossing and the use of other tools such as interdental brushes) have been shown to disrupt and remove plaque.” Most dentists, including pediatric dentists, have no hesitation in telling their patients to floss. Dentists can tell immediately, looking at a patient’s mouth, whether they floss or not.

How parents can get kids to floss

Once parents understand that flossing is still important, the next question is how to get their kids to floss. Admittedly, flossing teeth does require a bit of coordination.  Done correctly, it can help free debris at the gum line and remove particles from between teeth. On the other hand, poor flossing techniques not only can be painful, but can cause damage to the gum line, so it’s important that kids are shown the correct way to floss, and then encouraged to keep up the healthy habit.

Unsure how to teach your kids to floss?  Your pediatric dentist is one of your best resources to show your child how to floss.  You can also check out some great videos on flossing, which really make flossing fun for young children. there are a few tips to help kids floss correctly. Below are a few pointers:

  • Correctly hold the floss by winding about 18” of floss around the middle fingers of each hand; grasp floss between the thumb and index finger
  • Gently insert the floss between two teeth in a smooth back and forth motion.  Curve the floss around each tooth in a C shape and move it up and down each tooth
  • Be sure to use a clean piece of floss for each tooth by rewinding the floss each time to a new section.

You could also use the floss sticks and floss your kid’s teeth for them while they are laying down.  This makes it easier for you to reach their back teeth without causing them discomfort.  The bottom line is, kids need to floss their teeth to insure the areas between the teeth are free of debris that can breed bacteria, and can ultimately lead to decay. Teach your kids the importance of flossing, help them learn proper techniques, and encourage them to maintain this healthy habit daily. Their smiles will thank you for years to come!