In the book "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth," readers learn several new things about the main character Greg Heffley. One of them is that he doesn't floss his teeth. Greg has a crush on Rachel, the hygienist at Tender Hugs Pediatric Dental Care, but when Rachel tells him that his gums are in very bad shape and that he's "going to need to floss every day from now on," Greg pretends not to hear. Is your child a non-flosser too like Greg?
When caring for our teeth, toothbrushing alone is not enough, stresses Dr. Tess Oliveros-Villarico, who is the President of the Philippine Pediatric Dental Society Inc. (www.ppdsi.org).
"There are areas in the mouth that cannot be accessible even to a single bristle of the toothbrush. Hard-to-reach areas include those between contacting adjacent teeth. An important part of the oral hygiene regimen is flossing those areas to remove plaque build-up," she says.
Plaque that is not cleared, Dr. Villarico explains, will continue to attract microorganisms, food debris and more layers of plaque which in time may harden, making it more difficult to remove and posing a greater threat to oral health. Eventually, this can lead to tooth decay, bad breath, gum problems and other worse complications.
"Teeth with plaque may harbor tooth decay-causing bacteria which has the ability to produce acid that is capable of breaking down tooth structure. Tooth decay will be initially seen as white chalky spots in the region where plaque build-up is," she warns.
Flossing is thus essential and should be done frequently by young and old alike. Dr. Villarico advocates that kids and adults floss their teeth at least once a day, and she believes that this is best done as part of the oral hygiene regimen before bedtime.
"During sleep, salivary flow and quantity is significantly less compared to when awake and this impacts on the growth and proliferation of microorganisms and subsequent plaque accumulation in the mouth."
The health benefits of flossing notwithstanding, very young kids should not be obliged or forced to use dental floss on their teeth. Says Dr. Villarico, "Children's dexterity to perform adequate toothbrushing skills take time to develop and so it follows that flossing, which is a more difficult task to master, should not be strictly imposed on the young, immature child. However, should it be a case calling for flossing to be part of the oral hygiene regimen, parents and caregivers must make sure that the child is provided the correct toothbrushing and flossing practices based on the dentist's recommendations in order to satisfy good oral health. …