Do young kids need to floss and use mouthwash?

Why We Floss and Rinse

For good dental health, you probably know that you need to brush your teeth at least twice a day. But brushing alone isn't enough.

Flossing plays a huge role in dental care. When you brush, you're removing plaque and food particles from your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth feed on these particles and produce an acid that erodes the enamel of your teeth. When enamel erodes away, the dentin underneath is vulnerable to decay.

Bacteria in your mouth can also damage your gums and lead to gum disease. But bacteria and food particles get stuck in cracks and crevices in the teeth -- which is why these areas are more vulnerable to developing cavities. The areas between your teeth, which can't be reached by brushing alone, are common places for cavities to develop. That's why regular flossing is needed to make sure you remove the plaque, bacteria and food particles from between your teeth [source: Zamosky].

Mouthwash also holds a useful place in the dental care process. It helps remove plaque from teeth, kill bacteria and can protect the gums against gingivitis [source: New York Times]. Some rinses also contain fluoride for strengthening tooth enamel, which helps protect against cavities and tooth decay [source: American Dental Association]. As an added benefit, it makes your breath smell fresh by removing odor-causing bacteria and masking other bad smells. However, while mouthwash makes your mouth extra clean and gives your breath a boost, many dentists will tell you rinsing isn't as important for a healthy mouth as brushing and flossing [source: Danoff].

We do all of these things to protect and care for our adult teeth because we hope to keep them around for a long time. But if kids' teeth will eventually fall out no matter how well they're protected, do we have to go to such great lengths to care for them? The simple answer is yes; a child's teeth and gums are just as vulnerable to decay and disease as your own teeth, and flossing and rinsing with mouthwash can help ensure a healthy smile, even if that smile only contains a couple of teeth.

Keep reading to find out when and how to include flossing and mouthwash in your child's oral care routine.