Using dental floss is a key component of dental care because it removes plaque on and between your teeth that a tooth brush will not. If brushing your teeth is like mopping the floor, flossing is like sweeping the floor beforehand. And like sweeping the floor, if you’re flossing correctly, you’re getting into every crevice and corner of your mouth. That takes technique, which starts with practice that eventually leads to habit.
The best time to get into that habit is as soon as possible, which is why we recommend teaching your kids to floss as soon as they have the manual dexterity to do it. The problem is that flossing correctly takes effort, which is hard to get out of a kid at the end of long day.
Here are some ways to get your kids to push through their objections and start flossing regularly.
If you’re flossing correctly, you should see little pieces of food on the floss. Count them up at the end. Every time your kid sets a new particle record, give them a reward of some kind. Is it Pavlovian? Sure. Does it work? 100%.
A Flossing Song
Find a track your kids like and make it the flossing song. Make sure it’s between 2 and 3 minutes in length and get them to floss for the entire song. Maybe you sing along with the song to make it fun. This technique works well because it gives your kids something to look forward to every day. The key is to never play that song at any other time. An alternative to this method is the Flossing Show, where your kids get to watch an episode of a show they like, as long as they floss for the first two minutes of it. This one is a bit short but it might work for your children.
If you clearly explain to your kids what flossing is and what it does, they’ll come to the conclusion that they can eat whatever they want right before they floss because they’ll floss it away. So let them. Taffy? Sure. Licorice? Why not? This technique works well after a habit has already been established.
The Hard Truth
This isn’t one we recommend, but it has been shown to work. Let your kids know the dangers of not flossing, which includes everything from gum disease to cavities. Fear is a great motivator to anyone, no matter how old they are.
Throw Your Dentist Under the Bus
If all else fails, tell your kids we’ll be disappointed if they don’t floss. We’re happy to play the role of bad cop. Whatever works.