Big Red Tooth – Dr Candice Schwartz

Where teeth and health meet

Do I need to floss my child’s teeth?

Flossing one’s teeth is probably one of the most tricky skills to master in this lifetime and that is why most people do not do it. However consider this analogy: after a day of gardening and digging in the dirt with your hands, they are covered in mud and sand. You go to the basin and wash your hands vigorously with your most potent hand soap. You rinse the soapy water off only to reveal your finger nails filled with dirt underneath. Only when you take a nail brush a scrub under your nails is all the dirt removed. Imagine if you just left all that dirt and bacteria to live and remain under your nails indefinitely…

The same applies to your mouth and especially your child’s mouth. We eat and drink all day long, bathing our teeth in sugars and carbohydrates which allows bacteria to thrive and easily attach to all the surfaces of the teeth. After a rigorous scrubbing with the toothbrush, you are only removing the plaque/food/debris from the outer surface of your teeth; you are only cleaning 60% of your tooth surfaces. This leave 40% of tooth surfaces uncleaned, covered in plaque and susceptible to breakdown by bacteria. Flossing removes the bacteria below the gums. Decay occurring between the teeth is the second most common site of tooth decay in children. Decay between the teeth of children is very difficult to detect and even more difficult to treat.

The types of cavities that develop as a result of not flossing are in my opinion “silent killers”. The hole starts directly in between two teeth and slowly burrows into the center of the tooth. You are usually completely unaware that this hole exists because you cannot feel it with your tongue and the pain is not felt because the open tooth structure is shrouded between the adjacent teeth or compacted with food (nummy!). Only once the hole has increased in size enough, does the unsupported covering of enamel fracture/cave in. This is when people decide to visit me; once it is too late and the tooth generally requires a root treatment/extraction/pulpotomy(in primary teeth).

Silent destruction that ultimately leads to abscess development

The other important reason for flossing is to prevent gum disease from occurring in the gum areas between the teeth. Brushing alone is not adequate to keep the mouth healthy and free of disease. Bad breath is often caused by masses of bacteria/plaque breeding and thriving in the areas between the teeth. Plaque matures every 24 hours, so it is imperative to break this cycle and floss every day. Bleeding gums when you floss is a sign that you need to floss more!

Example of how to floss around the gum line

To prevent these disaster cavities from developing and to prevent gum disease you need to clean away the plaque/bacteria/food that accumulates under and around the gumline in between the teeth. You do this with dental floss, every night, last thing before bedtime. Flossing must be initiated in children from the age of 2 years. Even if their molar teeth have not grown out yet, start to floss around the mouth each night and entrench this habit into their daily routine. This will set them up for a lifetime of good oral health.

You only need to floss the teeth you want to keep…

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And dont forget to floss…..

Have a great weekend ! (:

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