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“Look both ways before crossing the street.” “Never talk to strangers.” “Don’t stick your fingers into electrical outlets.” “Eat your vegetables.” “Don’t touch the burners on the stove.” “Brush your teeth.”

Parents are great at teaching their children these vital life lessons that preserve the well-being of their little ones. But there’s one often overlooked tip that many parents fail to teach their children: the importance of flossing every day. That’s right! One of the most crucial things you will ever teach your child is to floss.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. To help you celebrate with your “little buddies,” our dental office wishes to remind you of the long-term difference that daily flossing can make in your children’s lives.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 20 percent of youth between the ages of two and 19 not only have cavities, but worse yet, they have cavities which have not been treated.

Naturally, you don’t want your kids to fall into that sad statistic. Therefore, the American Dental Association recommends that parents begin flossing their children’s teeth as soon as they have two teeth that touch. Due to their developing manual dexterity, children are not typically able to floss well enough for themselves until they are about 10 years old.

There are products that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance which might be helpful alternatives to traditional string floss, such as floss sticks, picks or other interdental cleaners.

Parents may assume it’s not necessary to emphasize good dental habits until their children’s permanent teeth have erupted (or “come in”). This is a false notion, however, because the primary teeth (baby teeth) serve as placeholders for the adult teeth. And if the baby teeth have problems, children could soon face issues with their permanent teeth.

Primary teeth assist in guiding the eruption of the adult teeth. And if problematic primary teeth are left untreated, then the child could encounter concerns with the development of his or her permanent teeth.

Obviously, maintaining good brushing practices and observing regular dental office visits for cleanings and checkups are absolutely necessary for your child’s oral health. It’s also important to feed them nutritionally balanced meals, and avoid giving them too much sugar.

And while most parents know these things, many parents still don’t realize the imperative nature of flossing and how essential it is for them, as well. Remember, the best way to instill good oral hygiene habits in your children is to lead by example. Enjoy those little smiles all the way into adulthood by teaching your children to floss daily.