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How to Get Your Kids to Floss

Dental flossing

Flossing is an imperative element of your child’s oral health. While brushing twice a day certainly helps to curb cavities, your child isn’t fully in the clear until they incorporate daily flossing into their routine. This is because toothbrushes can only access the surfaces of teeth, and oftentimes, debris from food can get caught in between teeth, leading to cavities located in harder-to-see spots. Sometimes, not even a rinse with fluoride can help to remove all the debris - it’s a job for only floss! 

Flossing takes just five minutes, and establishing it as a nightly routine early on in your child’s life can ensure their continued oral health in the years to come. Since many children would rather skip flossing altogether or do just a few of their teeth, parents have come up with sage advice over the years as to how to get their kids to floss. Try these tactics if nightly flossing has become a challenge. Their teeth will thank you!

1. Create a reward system. 

Children respond well to earning treats and experiences. Try using a sticker chart so they have a visual representation of their progress, then allocate a certain ‘reward’ to a certain number of stickers. For example, maybe if they floss all seven days of the week, they get to pick the family movie on Saturday night. The key is to find a reward that truly motivates them, whether it’s a visit to their favorite restaurant or playground, or the purchase of the stuffed animal they’ve been eyeing. It’s up to your discretion how many stickers (nights of thorough flossing) yield which result.

2. Explain why flossing is important.

Kids often have an ambiguous sense about why flossing is necessary. So, explaining what flossing will do for them can help to encourage their own internal motivation. Tell them about the dangers of not flossing, such as cavities or gum disease. There’s always a way to gently warn your child about what can happen when they don’t floss, so that they’ll be educated and continue in the habit even when at a friend’s house for a sleepover or when the sticker chart days are behind them. 

3. Get a fun type of floss. 

There are multiple ways to make the actual flossing process more enjoyable. For one, many flosses are now flavored. Minty fresh floss can be a bit more alluring than standard, unflavored floss. 

Companies have also developed ‘floss sticks.’ Rather than working with one long string of floss, these convenient little sticks make flossing much easier, with a smaller string wedged in a disposable small device. Your child may enjoy this more.

4. Floss while watching or listening to something fun. 

Since flossing doesn’t require a great deal of focus, consider forming a habit of flossing with your child while you watch a funny YouTube video or listen to a good song. Flossing while watching can encourage your child to ‘habit stack’ - so, if they know they need to floss to earn that sticker (or simply to prevent cavities), they’ll be more likely to spend time flossing while watching their favorite show or movie. 

Over time, these flossing habits will become second nature, and an integral part of your child’s bedtime routine. 

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