Many parents struggle to teach their children to floss daily — many of them struggle to do it themselves! But flossing is very important to remove food and debris from between teeth, a place that a brush simply can’t get to. Flossing fights plaque and prevents bad breath, as well as reducing the risk of gum disease. The earlier your children can get into the habit of flossing, the better.
Helping Kids Form Healthy Habits
Make a Chart
A flossing chart in the bathroom serves as a great daily reminder, providing extra accountability and helping both parents and kids see progress. You can try using their favorite stickers to keep track of their flossing success — a simple trick that I’ve personally used with my own children. Use incentives for setting a new personal best as motivation to get as many days in a row as possible.
Make Flossing Fun
Children love to play, and incorporating play into learning objectives is one of the easiest ways to help them grow. In the beginning, you can make flossing into a copycat game. Have your child mimic your movements, and be sure to ham it up. You can check their knowledge by having them tell you if you are flossing your teeth right.
Choose a fun song as their flossing soundtrack, something that has a slow and steady beat, and teach them how to move the floss to the rhythm of the music. Just make sure they use good technique while they floss.
If you’re already tracking their progress on a chart, you can add some complexity and fun into the game by using multi-colored packs of flossers designed for kids. Their accountability chart can be transformed into a Bingo card by marking each day’s flossing record with the appropriately colored mark or sticker. Mix up the flossers thoroughly and draw one at random each day. If they use a blue flosser, mark the chart with a blue marker or sticker. If they get three blue marks in a row (in any direction), they win a prize!
Use Positive Reinforcement
Good habits take time to develop, so be sure to encourage your children with positive reinforcement. Consistent planning and execution, and always following up brushing with flossing, will instill a good habit for life. Be sure to use kind, gentle reminders about flossing while giving praise when they make a good effort. We want oral hygiene to be a low-stress, positive experience to keep children excited about taking care of their teeth.
Set an Example – Floss Daily
Of all the tools available to you, the best way to help your children learn to floss consistently is for you to be proactive and do it too! It demonstrates that flossing is important to you (even kids don’t like a hypocrite) and helps them with accountability. As an added bonus, they help keep you accountable for flossing every day, too!
If your child refuses to floss or is having a hard time maintaining good oral hygiene, that’s okay! Every child learns at their own pace. Just be patient and keep trying. You can also come to us for help. Though it’s frustrating, children often listen to other authority figures better than they do their parents, and our Mt. Pleasant children’s dental practice has a lot of experience in helping kids learn to brush and floss their teeth. Schedule a cleaning for your children and they’ll be flossing pros before you know it.
Dr. Randy Pagenkopf