Cincinnati Family Magazine

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May 29, 2024

Do the Floss!

Teach your kids to floss the right way — and we’re not talking about the trendy dance move!

Once upon a time, flossing teeth didn’t seem so pressing. But local experts say that kids are getting more cavities than they used to.

“Fifty percent of children have cavities by kindergarten,” says Kaitlin Jennison, a pediatric dentist at Union Pediatric Dentistry.

“This has a lot to do with the amount of sugary beverages, fruit snacks and other processed sugary snacks that kids consume nowadays,” she adds.

If juices and sodas are regular drinks in your household, maybe you can encourage a little more H20. Sugary drinks tend to linger between teeth, creating the perfect environment for cavities in those areas. Flossing can help reduce the risk of cavities, Jennison says, so consider it an important tool for your children.

When to Start Flossing

As soon as your child’s baby teeth begin to touch, you can begin flossing them. If teeth come in especially crowded, it’s even more important.

“Most kids actually get cavities in between the teeth, and the toothbrush doesn’t reach there if the teeth are touching, so that’s why flossing is important,” says Jennison. “Without flossing, it’s like you are only cleaning half of the tooth.”

Of course, flossing a 3-year-old’s teeth may come with some challenges. If it’s too difficult for your child to sit while you floss, try having him lay back on a flat surface since that will help support his head. If you haven’t flossed for your child before, this may prove difficult at first, but keep at it. It will become easier and easier. Hand-held flossers may prove easier, so be sure to try those.

Don’t fret if your child’s gums bleed a little — you’re not doing anything wrong. Most of the time it’s because the gums have a little gingivitis from the lack of flossing. Floss your little one’s teeth daily, and he’ll have healthy gums in no time.

Taking Action

Flossing can be challenging for independent, older kids in a hurry as well as tweens and teens who find it annoying. Jennison recommends overseeing your kids until about age 8, and then encouraging them as you go along. You can actually tell by just looking at your child’s teeth if he’s doing it or not.

You can make flossing more interesting for kids by choosing animal-shaped or flavored flossers, rewarding them with a sticker chart, or for the older kids, trying a sibling competition to see who flosses most regularly!

“Plaque disclosing toothpaste, mouthwash, or tablets can be used periodically to show them how much plaque hides in between the teeth,” says Jennison. “As they get into teenage years, you may recommend setting a timer on their phone to remind them to floss,” she continues.


• Starting when your kids are little, have them watch you floss so they’ll want to do it, too.

• Ask your dentist to show your kids what cavities look like and how bacteria stuck between teeth causes cavities, gum disease and bad breath.

• Do a science experiment: Soak eggs in different liquids such as juice, soda, lemonade or vinegar overnight. The next
day, observe what these liquids have done to the eggs!

• Visit the “Inside the Grin” exhibit at The Duke Energy Children’s Museum at The Cincinnati Museum Center which is dedicated to oral health. Kids can try to “brush away sugar bugs,” and explore the sights and sounds of a dental visit. Learn more at

About the Author

Amanda Hayward

Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and a mom of three with one on the way. If she's not writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.