Cavities between the teeth are slow, insidious and begin showing up between age 3 and 5 years old. They account for 90% of cavities that I see; the majority of them happening between 5 and 9 years old. I cannot apply preventive sealants between teeth. Tooth brushing will not clean between the teeth. Flossing will, however, and will help protect those areas. Since brushing will not help prevent these cavities, lets make flossing easy and bring it up high in the parent priority list, higher than brushing.
Floss anywhere. At evening story time on the couch, children can lay with head on your lap, looking up with mouth open wide. It is easy to see in that mouth and the head is supported, making the job quick, easy and comfortable for the younger kids. It is part of snuggle time. Some parents floss when the kids are in bed. For the flossing to be effective for children, it only needs to slide past the tight spot between the teeth and then slide back out. Simple.
When my kids were 6 years old they were OK though not yet great brushers. Since flossing was the real important issue, I chose to let them brush and bring me a piece of floss afterward. They handed me the floss, turned their back to me and tipped their head way back against my stomach. Mouth is wide open, easy to see, took 10 – 15 seconds of my time, and if their brushing job was really poor I saw it and sent them back. They soon improved their brushing to avoid being sent back. By about 10 they were doing their own flossing.
Set up their flossers. Many kids want to floss themselves and can’t get the floss wound on the flossing handle tightly enough. So the flossing goes undone or is severely lacking. How about winding up 7 days worth for them to have in their bathroom? Ask us for more handles if you want them. They are inexpensive and we would love to give you what you need.
There are pre-strung single use flossers in the stores which I caution against. Floss-Picks and Wild-Flossers and such are attractive, but the little piece of floss is limp and the handle is flexible. I call them Flimsy Flossers. Caution: Kids get very independent minded and insist on flossing themselves. Many haven’t developed adequate hand skills yet. They go through the motions with the limp floss that does not get between the teeth and are rudely surprised later when cavities show up. It is too late then, when we point out to the parents that the children have not been using the floss effectively.