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Flossing and Children

Flossing should begin when your child is around ages 2 to 3, under the direction of your child's dentist. Prior to this age, flossing is not necessary. Children usually need assistance with flossing until they are ages 8 to 10. 

The importance of flossing

Brushing teeth properly and consistently helps to remove most dental plaque; however, brushing alone cannot remove plaque that is located in places that a toothbrush cannot reach, particularly in between teeth. In addition to removing plaque, flossing also helps to:

  • Remove debris that adheres to teeth and gums in-between teeth

  • Polish tooth surfaces

  • Control bad breath

Flossing should take place at least once a day for two to three minutes each time to be most effective.

Types of dental floss

Regular, consistent flossing is the single most important weapon against plaque, perhaps more important than the toothbrush. The different types of dental floss include the following:

  • Waxed and unwaxed

  • Flavored and unflavored

  • Wide and regular

  • Textured and smooth

Flossing methods

Your child's dentist or other oral health care provider can provide a demonstration of any of the following flossing techniques. They include:

  • Spool method (also called the finger-wrap method)
    Cut off a piece of floss that is approximately 18 to 20 inches in length. Lightly wrap each side of the piece of floss several times around each middle finger. Next, carefully maneuver the floss in between the teeth with your index fingers and thumbs in an up and down, not side-to-side, motion. It is best to bring the floss up and down, making sure to go below the gumline, bending it to form a "C" on the side of each tooth.

  • Loop method (also called the circle method)
    Cut off a piece of floss that is approximately 18 inches long, and tie it securely in a circle. Next, place all of the fingers, except the thumb, within the loop. Then, use your index fingers to guide the floss through the lower teeth, and use your thumbs to guide the floss through the upper teeth, making sure to go below the gumline, bending it to form a "C" on the side of each tooth.

Other flossing techniques

Flossing tools, such as a prethreaded flosser or floss holder may be helpful for people who are just learning how to floss, individuals with limited dexterity in their arms and/or hands, or persons who are flossing the teeth of someone else (particularly a child or disabled person).

Oral irrigators are not considered a substitute for brushing and flossing. These devices may be effective around orthodontic braces that retain food or in areas a toothbrush cannot reach. However, they do not remove plaque that contains harmful bacteria.

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