Maintaining strong deciduous teeth (commonly known as “baby teeth” or “milk teeth”) is one of the most important steps in developing lifelong positive oral hygiene habits for your children.
It is a commonly held belief that because our baby teeth are not usually permanent, they are not as important as our “adult” or “second” teeth. It is actually quite the opposite! Baby teeth are in fact placeholders for our adult teeth before they come through. Early loss of baby teeth can cause unnecessary crowding issues down the track, which may require further orthodontic attention to fit everything in.
It’s not widely known that the growth of baby teeth guide the adult teeth into position, and establishing good oral hygiene routines from an early age is the most important step towards healthy teeth and gums.
Children need guidance and supervision in oral hygiene from the appearance of the first tooth until around the age of 8 – motor skills have not yet fully developed and children do not have the manual skills to correctly brush and, particularly, floss their teeth.
In the case of many children it may not seem there is a case for flossing, as most have gaps between their front teeth (called primate spaces), which make it easier to clean between their teeth with a toothbrush. However, most children also have back teeth, or ‘molars’, that are used to chew food and are positioned much closer together – it is in these tight spaces where food is likely to become caught which can be a precursor to decay. Flossing your child’s teeth can lead to better oral hygiene, lower rates of decay, and better breath.
Helping your child with flossing early in life can help make it easier in the future to keep up the flossing habit, especially around the teenage years when they select their own foods and orthodontic braces make it even more challenging to clean with floss.
We suggest following these simple steps for parents to make flossing your children’s teeth easier:
- Lay you child on the bed, with their head at the foot of the bed
- Sit or kneel behind the child in “the dentist position”
- If your child has a sibling, you can get them to hold a torch to help increase visibility. This also helps to make the activity more of a fun game.
- Floss in between all of your child’s teeth, especially the ones furthest back.
If regular floss is not your thing, there are many new flossing adjuncts on the market that can make cleaning between your children’s teeth less cumbersome. Remember, the aim is to develop healthy habits early so that it becomes part of your life, rather than a chore.
Here’s a guideline to keep your child’s mouth healthy:
- Brush twice a day
Brush once in the morning and once at night, before bedtime. After brushing at night, be sure to only give your child water and no sugary drinks, including fruit juice.
- Use a soft, small brush
Be sure to guide the brushing process and create routine by using the same order – inside, outside, then biting surface, for example. Routine means that you won’t miss any teeth. Use minimal pressure and always remember to clean around the gum line.
- Apply only a small amount of toothpaste
A pea-sized amount is enough.
- Finish with flossing
And try to make it fun!
Remember, the aim is to start them flossing early, so that they develop good healthy habits for life.
Your dentist can go through flossing with your child to introduce the floss, and that can be followed up at home.
And remember, every child is different. It’s always good to consult your dentist for more tailored advice for your children.
We look forward to seeing your expert flossing skills at your next check up!
About Our Author:
Dr Will Wang:
Dr Will Wang has been a dentist at Highgate Hill Dental Centre since 2008. He aims to make seeing the dentist a positive, happy experience for the whole family, and enjoys making it a fun visit for children. Will has a particular interest in preventative and restorative dentistry; and spends a lot of time explaining concepts to empower patients with the ability to maintain their own dental health between visits.