Bedtime routines with little ones can be hard enough. Getting them to put on their pajamas, brush their teeth, and fall asleep at a decent hour isn’t a smooth process. The thought of adding flossing to the mix makes the bedtime routine sound even more daunting.
But the earlier you incorporate flossing into their normal daily activities, the more likely this habit will stick. So how early should you start?
There are two schools of thought to consider:
#1 — As Early as Possible
As soon as your baby’s teeth erupt, you will want to start brushing. There isn’t much to floss at this stage, but your little one is watching your every move. Soon enough, perhaps by 12 or 18 months, they will want to copy your flossing and try it for themselves. (That means you ought to be flossing yourself.)
Use a disposable flosser to gently clean between their teeth. Let them hold it and use it themselves. Allowing them to experience the sensation of the thin floss moving between their teeth will help that feeling be just part of their routine, instead of something to fear. The more familiar they are with the process, the better.
#2 — When Their Teeth Start Touching
Once your baby starts visiting the dentist regularly (most dentists start seeing children between 1 to 3 years of age), your dentist will be able to tell you when their teeth are close enough for flossing. (Flossing before teeth touch is just to get them used to the idea.)
When two or more teeth are close together, food debris can get stuck. That’s the perfect moment to demonstrate what floss does. Help them identify which tooth needs treatment, and show them how floss can remove the food and the discomfort.
Incorporate flossing every day into their routine. The best time to floss? Probably right before bed, so they can sleep with the cleanest teeth possible. Don't forget to use a clean section of floss between each set of teeth, too.
A couple final tips: help your children understand why you floss. Show them the food debris that gets dislodged, and encourage them to enjoy the feel of a clean mouth. Lessons like these will intrinsically motivate them to continue flossing on their own.
And, again, make sure flossing is part of your daily routine. Our kids are experts at recognizing hypocrisy. If you say they should do it, you should do it too. Happy flossing!