You’ve undoubtedly seen flosser picks in the supermarket and on the web: small little plastic sticks with a pointed end (except the ones for children) and a U-shaped top with a piece of floss stretched from side to side. They are used as an alternative for regular floss, i.e., the kind that comes in a small box. Families with young children like flosser picks because they eliminate the need to wrap yards of dental floss around the fingers of both hands while simultaneously wrestling the floss between their children’s teeth as their child fidgets (and sometimes screams!) to get away. Sounds good, right? A great way to have fun learning to floss, right? Well, yes and no. Here are four reasons that floss sticks (even the ones with Dora the Explorer emblazoned on them) might not be the best choice for flossing your child’s teeth.
- Floss picks can irritate sensitive gums
When flossing with “regular” dental floss, one wiggles the floss between the teeth with a gentle push/pull motion down and then up. With a floss pick, however, the floss is simply “snapped” or pushed down between the teeth, risking sharp contact with sensitive, young gums. Not only can this create alarm on the part of your child (who may thereafter decry flossing in any form) it can cause gum damage.
- Floss picks give no “feedback” about your child’s teeth
With floss picks, the same small length of floss is used through the entire mouth. You’re denied the ability to notice whether there is more or less food or other debris in your child’s teeth, so you won’t know if your child needs a more thorough brushing in, for example, the back teeth compared with the good job he is doing on the front teeth.
- Floss picks are single-use plastics—landfill fodder by the millions
Nobody expects you to be Recycler Of The Year but the truth is, floss picks are plastic. They won’t disintegrate in the landfill as will ordinary dental floss. And they’re filled with bacteria. In the landfill. Need we say more?
- Floss picks spread bacteria in your child’s mouth
If your child has “bad” bacteria lurking between one pair of teeth, reusing that short piece of floss between the other teeth transports that bacteria to the next set of teeth. Worse yet, it deposits the bacteria down into the gum line. Considering that a primary function of floss is to remove bacteria, it’s easy to see the flaw in that system, isn’t it?
Once your child has two teeth that touch one another, it’s time to start flossing. Yes, it’s a challenge, with your toddler wiggling all over, desperately trying to dodge that piece of floss and escape your entrapment. But, in the short run, the downside of flossing will ensure a cleaner mouth and gums and better dental health. And, in the long run, you’ll be teaching your young one healthy habits that will last a lifetime. So, sing a song or count to 10 at each insertion of the floss, and in no time, your child will be willing to endure this short venture into healthy dental habits. I promise.