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Flossing: Do Kids Really Need To Do It?



Flossing is not a favorite dental activity for many kids. Mostly, it’s difficult to get some kids to floss. Thank goodness for The Smile Shop. Dr. Nicole Stoker provides some advice on why it’s important, how we can do it, and in the process – maintaining our sanity.

Why is flossing so important?
Flossing is important to remove food and plaque that gets trapped in the tight spaces between two teeth that are touching. Flossing gets into the space where the toothbrush alone can’t reach. When we remove the plaque between the teeth, we reduce the risk of a cavity forming in that area. Flossing is important for both cavity prevention and maintaining the health of our gums to prevent conditions, such as gingivitis.

Who should be flossing? What age should the child floss on their own?
Parents should brush their children’s teeth until around age 7 or 8. Flossing requires even more manual dexterity and therefore parents may need to assist with flossing until age 9 or 10.

Are there ways that make flossing easier?
To floss the teeth of an infant or toddler it may be easier to lay the child in your lap so you can get a bird’s eye view of the areas that need to be flossed. You can try to make flossing fun for your child by singing or making up a story about the sugar bugs you are removing, or keep them engaged by talking about the floss being a jump rope for the sugar bugs.

Should you use string floss or stick floss?
The type of floss to use is all about child and parent preference. Sometimes you need to try a few kinds to see what works best in your hands. The best floss is the floss that your child will actually use! For string floss, wrap the floss around your middle fingers and then pinch the floss between your pointer finger and thumb and gently glide the floss between each tooth. Create a “C” shape around the tooth and move the floss up and down the side of the tooth and try to avoid snapping the floss through the teeth. The more consistently you floss the more comfortable it will be. Skipping multiple nights could lead to a better chance of bleeding gums and discomfort. The stick floss is in the shape of a “V” and holds the floss between the points which can make it easier to get into small mouths. Children that have braces will need to use a special floss to get around the wires.

How often should you be flossing?
Flossing should be done once a day. Flossing before bed is a great time to ensure your teeth are cleaner while you are sleeping. However, flossing is beneficial anytime of the day. Establishing a routine is a good way to make sure we consistently follow all the steps to ensure great oral health.
When should your kids begin flossing?

Parents are often surprised to hear that young children should be flossing. As soon as teeth are touching, they should be flossed. So the time to start flossing is really based on the individual needs of the child. Widely spaced teeth can be cleaned by a toothbrush, whereas tight teeth will need to be flossed. One of the most common places to get a cavity on a baby tooth is in between the teeth, so start flossing your child’s teeth early to be proactive about dental health.

About Dr. Nicole Stoker:
Dr. Nicole Stoker, the daughter of Dr. Michael Stoker, is a third generation Reno native. Dr. Nicole attended local schools including Verdi Elementary and McQueen High. She attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and the University of Nevada, Reno, before obtaining her dental degree at the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco in 2005. Upon graduating from dental school, she completed a two year pediatric dental residency at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to become a certified pediatric dentist.  She later became a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist after completing the extensive requirements in 2009.

Outside of dentistry her interests include skiing, hiking and enjoying the multiple activities the Reno-Tahoe area has to offer. She especially enjoys spending time with her daughter, Elle, her son Miles, and her husband Kyle.


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