Do young kids need to floss and use mouthwash?

Flossing, Rinsing and Kids

Should you floss your child's teeth? Yes! Even though they're baby teeth, plaque and bacteria can still build up between them and cause decay and infections. You should start flossing your child's teeth daily once any two teeth in your child's mouth are touching, which is when brushing alone can no longer reach all of the crevices where bacteria can hide [source: American Dental Association].

At an early age, you'll need to floss your child's teeth for him or her because most young children lack the coordination to do it on their own. But by the age of 9, kids should be able to floss their own teeth, with supervision [source: Colgate].

If you've demonstrated proper flossing technique for them prior to that age, it'll be easier to teach them how to do it. A plastic flosser -- a small, handheld tool with a piece of floss strung between two prongs -- may make flossing kids' teeth easier because it only requires one hand to use. That leaves the other hand free to hold your child's mouth open or keep their head still [source: WebMD].

While flossing a young child's teeth should begin as soon as two teeth come in side-by-side, mouthwash can come into play at a later age. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), children under the age of 6 should not use mouthwash because it's difficult for them to keep from swallowing it. Swallowing mouthwash poses health hazards to young children -- especially if they swallow an adult mouthwash containing alcohol.

After the age of 6, it's OK to start teaching your child to use mouthwash -- under adult supervision. Make sure to use only rinses designed for children, since they don't contain alcohol and are less harmful if your kid accidentally swallows some of it.

Children's mouthwashes also usually contain fluoride for strong teeth and have a flavor kids like -- like bubblegum -- which makes the experience more enjoyable. Some kids' mouthwashes also have an ingredient that changes color when it meets with bacteria and food particles, so when your child spits it out they can see just how effective rinsing with mouthwash can be [source: Listerine].

Want to know more about dental care? Brush up on hygiene smarts with more information below.

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  • American Dental Association. "Cleaning Your Teeth & Gums." (Sept. 4, 2011).
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  • Danoff, Robert, D.O., M.S. "Open Wide: Your Oral Hygiene: Is Mouthwash a Must?" MSN Health and Fitness. (Sept. 11, 2011).
  • Listerine. "Frequently Asked Questions About Listerine Smart Rinse." (Sept. 11, 2011).
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