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5 Benefits of Visiting a Pediatric Dentist

The Difference

Let’s face it – for some in past years visiting the dentist wasn’t the most fairy tale experience.  Put your mind to ease by selecting a multi award winning practice and the most loved pediatric dentist in Southwest FloridaDr. Tim Verwest, DMD & Associates who are specially trained and board certified for treating pediatric patients.

While general dentists can perform the same work, visiting a pediatric dentist provides a slew of extra benefits:

Office Decor 

We’ve got fun just about everywhere you look! From video games, to community initiatives and educational lobby experiences for children of all ages to enjoy!

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Better Training

Kids aren’t always the most cooperative of patients.  A pediatric dentist has at least two additional years of training beyond dental school solely focused on treating young patients.

In the additional training, the focus is on child psychology, growth/development, and learning all of the tips and tricks of the trade for examining and treating children.

Specialized Treatment

In the circumstance that your child needs more comprehensive dental treatment, pediatric dentists are specially trained to handle special needs and to children with extensive dental treatment needs.

Oral Health Care Education

Since Pediatric Dentistry of Florida’s staff work solely with kids,  we know how to engage in educational learning.  Even more, we have props and teaching tools that are appropriate for all ages. To become part of our dental family, please fill out the form below and we will contact you immediately as possible. Thank you and we look forward to serving you!

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Local Dentist Recognized as America’s Best Dentist for 2016

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The National Consumer Advisory Board has named Pediatric Dentistry of Ft. Myers, Dr. Tim M. Verwest, DMD one of America’s Best Dentist for 2016. Selections are done based on a proprietary assessment of a dentists experience, training, continuing education, and commitment to excellence to ensure the most impartial unbiased review of all applicants.

Dr. Verwest is a board certified Diplomat of the National Board of Pediatric Dentistry with professional interests in the areas of pediatric pharmacology, biomaterials, and pediatric anesthesia.  He believes in lifelong learning and continues his education by taking courses in pediatric sedation, pediatric oncology, sealants, prosthetics, pediatric cosmetic dentistry, pediatric materials, childhood growth and development, and more.

Pediatric Dentistry of Ft Myers, Dr. Tim Verwest, DMD, continues to provide pediatric dental care to children for the last 26 years. Areas of service include comprehensive dental exams, cleanings, composite fillings, dental hygiene education, extractions, fluoride treatments, sealants, sedation dentistry, space maintainers, x-rays and tooth nerve treatment. For more information, visit www.DrVerwest.com or (239) 482-2722.

Holiday sweets can be tough on teeth

The winter holidays are known for sweet treats and tempting goodies, but that doesn’t mean that you have to end up at the dentist with cavities in January.

How do sweet foods and drinks cause cavities?

When you eat sugary foods or drinks, naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugar and create acids as a by-product. These acids then wear down the tooth enamel, making it weaker and more susceptible to tooth decay as well as a host of other problems, including gingivitis.

Snacking on sweets throughout the day or during an extended period of time (such as at a holiday party) is especially harmful, since damaging acids form in the mouth every time you eat a sugary snack and continue to affect the teeth for at least 20 minutes afterwards.

“Snacking on sweets and sugary beverages throughout the day can increase the chance of tooth decay and gum disease,” said Dr. Kevin Sheu, managing dental consultant for Delta Dental. “Brushing and flossing after snacks definitely reduces bacteria.”

5 tips to stay cavity-free

Keep cavity-causing bacteria in check by adding these strategies to your holiday routine.

  • Balance out your sweets with other foods. Eating sugary and carb-rich foods as part of a balanced meal can lessen their impact on your teeth.
  • Choose sweets that don’t stick around. Instead of sticky foods that get on and in between your teeth, go for items that dissolve quickly, limiting their contact with your enamel. For example, swap out caramels and candy canes with plain dark chocolate.
  • Brush afterwards. Always keep a toothbrush to brush away foods and plaque after you eat. If you’re consuming foods or beverages that are high in acid, like oranges and wine, make sure to wait 30 minutes. Acid can soften the enamel, so brushing too soon can actually damage your teeth.
  • Stay prepared. You’ll have no excuse to skip brushing and flossing if you always keep a toothbrush, travel tube of toothpaste and container of floss in your bag or car.
  • Rinse to refresh. When you can’t brush, rinse your mouth with tap water to wash away food particles and bacteria.

Use your holiday vacations to spend more time brushing your teeth. If you’re relaxed or have more free time during the day or with your morning or nightly routine, you can use the time to brush more thoroughly and develop better oral care habits.

It isn’t necessary to brush vigorously to get your teeth clean. What’s important when brushing your teeth is not how hard you scrub, but that you use the proper technique and that you do a thorough job. And that takes time. Dentists recommend that you brush your teeth for two to three minutes to get the most thorough cleaning.

If you get into the habit of brushing for two to three minutes every morning, every night and after every meal during the holidays, you may keep those good habits when your regular routine resumes.

Common Dental Health Questions

  1. Are dental x-rays safe?

Exposure to any source of radiation isn’t ideal, but fortunately the dose of radiation you get from taking x-rays is extremely small.  You can thank the wonderful engineers and scientists in the dental industry for that.  New, digital x-ray machines limit the beam of radiation to just the small area being x-rayed, higher speed x-ray films require shorter exposure time, film holders keep the film in your mouth from slipping and avoiding repeat x-rays, and full-body aprons protect the body from stray radiation.  Federal law requires x-ray machines to be checked for accuracy and safety every two years, and some states even increase the frequency of checks.

  1. What can you tell me about dental sealants?

Dental sealants are a thin, plastic coating that covers the chewing surfaces of the teeth to fill in fissures and grooves.  Because these are the hardest areas to reach, bacteria tend to live here and cause cavities and decay.

Sealants are becoming a go-to solution for kids who have even more trouble brushing the hard-to-reach areas, such as their molars.  However, sealants work for adults too.

Typically, they protect teeth for up to 10 years but should be checked regularly for chipping and excessive wear.

  1. How close are we to drill-less dentistry?

Also known as air abrasion and microabrasion, drill-less dentistry can remove tooth decay, remold old composite restorations, prepare a tooth surface for bonding or sealants, and remove superficial stains and discolorations.  Air abrasion works put shooting a fine stream of particles at the tooth surface to clean away decay and stain, much like a mini sandblaster works.  Remaining particles can then be suctioned away.

  1. Are silver-colored fillings, or amalgams, safe?

Amalgams contain mercury, leading many people to think that they are causing a number of diseases, including autism, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis.

The American Dental Association (ADA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as numerous public health agencies, have confirmed multiple times that amalgams are safe and that there is no link between the fillings and these diseases.  Although mercury is toxic on its own, when mixed with other metals such as silver, copper, tin, and zinc, they form a stable alloy that dentists have actually used for over 100 years.

  1. What is the most effective way to whiten my teeth?

ALL toothpastes help to remove surface stains with the help of mild abrasives.  Whitening toothpastes, however, contain gentle polishing or chemical agents that provide additional removal.  Most over-the-counter whitening toothpastes contain peroxide – either carbamide or hydrogen.

The difference between whitening methods is due to the percent of peroxide.  Store-bought solutions, such as strips, trays, and toothpastes, typically contain a maximum of 7% peroxide, while whiteners that a dentist uses contain up to 45% peroxide. Just one hour in the dentist’s chair can result in a dazzling smile, while at-home treatments kick in about 4-6 weeks later.

Both ways work well, but the biggest discrepancy comes with the costs.  Chair-side treatments will costs around $500, while store-bought kits range from $25 to $100.

  1. How can I change the shape of my teeth?

There are several different options to change the shape, close gaps, or repair chipped teeth.

  • Dental bonding applies a tooth-colored resin to the tooth surface and bonds it to the tooth with a special light.
  • Dental crowns are tooth-shaped caps that are placed over teeth to fully cover the entire visible portion of the tooth.
  • Veneers are extremely thin, custom-made shells that cover the front surface of your teeth.
  • Reshaping your teeth (also called odontoplasty, enameloplasty, stripping, or slenderizing) removes small amounts of tooth enamel to change the length, shape, or surface.
  1. I have a terrible fear of the dentist. How can I overcome this?

You’re not alone.  Between 5% and 8% of Americans avoid the dentist completely out of fear, and almost 20% will only schedule an appointment if it’s absolutely necessary.

The first step is talking to your dentist.  Many dentists assume that all patients have the same level of fear and pain tolerance.  Alerting them that yours might be a special case will allow them to take special consideration.

Other solutions include medications, use of lasers instead of drills, and anxiety-reducing techniques such as guided imagery, biofeedback, deep breathing, acupuncture, and other mental health therapies.

  1. How do I know which toothpaste my child should use?

There are a couple rules of thumb here, and the answer is a little tricky.  It really depends on the age of your child.  Fluoride is an important mineral proven to prevent cavities. However, swallowed in large doses, fluoride can be toxic.  Once your child learns to spit and not swallow the toothpaste, you can transition them to using toothpaste containing fluoride.

The American Dental Association also grants their Seal of Acceptance to certain products that meet their criteria for safety and effectiveness.  When in doubt, pick toothpaste with the ADA seal.  They’ll do all of the research and work for you.

  1. I can’t afford regular dental care. Are there some resources available to me?

Yes, there are thousands of dentists across the US that offer their services at a reduced rate or free of charge through dental society sponsored assistance programs. Contact your local dental society for more information about where you can find the nearest assistance programs (such as public health clinics and dental school clinics).

The ADA’s website also links to state dental associations and dental schools.

  1. I recently moved and need to find a new dentist. How can I find one?

Over 80% of people rely on recommendations from friends and family to find a new dentist.  If you’re moving nearby, your current dentist may be able to make a recommendation as well.

Top 10 Myths About Children’s Teeth

  1. Baby teeth aren’t important. They’re just going to fall out anyway.

It is true that none of your child’s 20 baby teeth will survive into their teenage years.  But if you want those 32 permanent teeth to come in shiny and straight, it’s absolutely essential to take care of their predecessors.

Baby teeth aren’t here to stay, but they’re extremely important while they are here. They serve as natural spacers for the permanent teeth.  If one is lost too early, before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt, the other teeth could come in crooked or cause crowding.  Additionally, if a baby tooth has decay, it can pass the bacteria to the permanent tooth below, causing it to decay before it even breaks the surface.

Not only does it spread to the permanent tooth, but it can also spread to the rest of the body via saliva and their gum tissue, causing a slew of long-term health consequences.

  1. My child has cavities because he has soft teeth.

We’re not exactly sure where this one started, but there is no such thing as “soft teeth.”  Everyone’s teeth are coated in enamel, the hardest substance in the human body.  Cavities occur when bacteria eat away at the teeth to create little holes.  Once a hole is formed, it becomes infinitely harder to reach the bacteria hiding out in the hole, so the problem increasingly worsens.

  1. My child can brush their own teeth.

We all can’t wait for the day that our child can get ready for bed on their own (and hopefully do so willingly!).  Unfortunately, that day is a long way off.  It’s not a matter of intelligence or how gifted your child is.  It’s simply because kids lack the manual dexterity needed to brush all of their teeth thoroughly until about age 6 or 7.  As a general rule, children don’t develop this dexterity until they can write in cursive.  Until then, the primary responsibility for their clean teeth falls to the parents.

  1. I don’t need to take my child to the dentist. He only has 2 teeth!

How can he have bad oral hygiene when he’s all gums?!  Believe it or not, oral hygiene begins almost immediately after birth.  Even before you see a sign of their first tooth, you should be wiping their gums with a wet piece of gauze.  After that, it’s on to a wet toothbrush and then fluoridated toothpaste.

A child’s first visit to the dentist should be right around their 1st birthday.  More than likely – if you’ve been doing a good job with their oral hygiene so far – it’ll just be a short and informal dentist appointment.  The dentist will take a look around, warn you about any potential problem areas, possibly clean their teeth, and answer any questions you may have.

Habits form early, so it’s better to get your child into the twice a year routine from the very beginning.

  1. My child won’t drink plain water.

They will, and they should.  It’s tempting to add flavor or hand them an “all-natural” juice box, but any drink other than water is likely to contain some amount of sugar – the favored meal of cavity-causing bacteria.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends young kids should drink no more than 4 to 6 ounces (or the equivalent of one cup) per day.  It’s also better for your child to drink the juice with a meal and opt for water between meals.

  1. My child needs a bottle to go to sleep.

Not only is sugar bad for their teeth in general, but the consequences worsen the longer their teeth are exposed to the sugar.  If a child falls asleep with a bottle, their teeth are being attacked by the bacteria that feed on sugar for the entire time they’re sleeping, likely leading to Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.

If they absolutely need a bottle at bedtime, fill it with water.  The better alternative, though, is to let them cry it out for a few nights and adjust to falling asleep without the bottle.

  1. Bottled water is just as good for my child’s teeth as tap water.

You’re a step in the right direction! Water is the best choice for your child.  But if you’re opting for the easy-to-grab, convenient option of bottled water, you might just be missing out on one important ingredient – fluoride.

Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens tooth enamel and makes teeth more resistant to acids and bacteria.  Most bottled water doesn’t contain a trace of fluoride, but there are some options that do.

  1. My child doesn’t need to bother with flossing until his permanent teeth come in.

As soon as your child has two teeth that are touching, he needs to start flossing.  The areas that are harder to reach with a brush are the areas that bacteria prefer to live in.  By simply relying on brushing, he’s missing out on cleaning almost 35% of the tooth’s surface.

  1. It’s okay for my child to suck his thumb.

It is – until about kindergarten.  Then it’s time to break free from the habit.  Around this time, the front permanent teeth will be coming in, and you don’t want any added pressure to the teeth forcing them out of their natural positions.  It’ll be a battle, but it’s well worth it.

  1. My child is prone to cavities because of his genetics.

Too often parents assume their children just inherited their bad teeth, and there’s nothing they can do about it.  Genetics does have some influence on dental health, but it’s relatively small.  In fact, almost 100% of cavities can be prevented.

5 Common Dental Problems for Kids

  1. Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Also called early childhood caries, nursing caries, or Nursing Bottle Syndrome, Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is a result of a baby’s teeth coming in frequent, prolonged contact with sugary drinks, such as fruit juices, milk, formula, and sugar water.

As with all foods, the sugar is broken down by bacteria in your mouth, producing a byproduct of acid.  The acid then attacks your teeth and strips away the minerals found in your enamel, causing tooth decay.

How to Prevent Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

As a general rule, you want to keep your baby’s bottle or pacifier as clean and sugar-free as possible. Here are a few tips to do so:

  • Never dip your baby’s pacifier into sugar, honey, or any sweet liquid before giving it to them.
  • Don’t clean a dropped pacifier in your own mouth.  Cavities are contagious, and you could be passing on your own cavity-causing bacteria.
  • The less sugary drinks they consume, the better. Try to limit drinks other than water to only mealtimes.  In between meals and during snack time, only put plain water in their bottle or sippy cup.
  • Don’t add unnecessary sugar to your child’s food.
  • Before your baby cuts their first tooth, make sure you’re wiping their gums with a clean, wet piece of gauze or a cloth.
  • Don’t put your baby down for bed or a nap with a bottle.  If they absolutely have to have a bottle, make sure you fill it only with water.
  1. Thumb Sucking

You’d be hard pressed to find an infant that doesn’t suck on something – whether it’s their fingers or their pacifier.  Generally, this habit isn’t anything to be alarmed about, unless it continues until a later age.  When a baby’s permanent teeth begin to come in, sucking on an object can push the teeth out of alignment, causing them to protrude or create an overbite.  Beyond the aesthetic consequences of sucking, it can also cause speech problems or teach children to eat incorrectly.

How to Stop Your Child from Sucking Their Thumb

Thumb sucking doesn’t become a huge problem until a child’s permanent teeth start to erupt.  Once the first tooth starts to emerge, parents and family members should offer positive reinforcement to encourage a child to stop sucking.  Because it’s generally a coping and security mechanism, negative reinforcement could have the opposite of the intended effect, driving the child to suck their thumb even more.

Instead, give praise and rewards for a designated span of time that the child refrains from the habit.  Then gradually increase the time that they need to avoid sucking in order to get the reward.

For older children who haven’t gotten rid of the habit, it’s important to figure out exactly why your child is still doing it.

  1. Tongue Thrusting

Tongue thrusting is the habit of sealing the mouth for swallowing by thrusting the top of the tongue forward against the lips.

Like thumb sucking, tongue thrusting puts extra pressure against the front teeth, which could ultimately push them out of alignment, causing improper speech development, eating problems, and an overbite.

How to Stop Your Child from Tongue Thrusting

If you notice your child tongue thrusting, contact a speech pathologist to help correct the problem – the earlier, the better.  They’ll develop a treatment plan that helps your child to increase the strength of their chewing muscles and to develop a new swallowing pattern.

  1. Lip Sucking

Lip sucking involves repeatedly holding the lower lip beneath the upper front teeth, which results in the same overbite, speech impediment, and eating habits caused by thumb sucking and tongue thrusting.

How to Stop Your Child from Lip Sucking

Like thumb sucking, lip sucking is best stopped with the use of positive reinforcement.

  1. Early Tooth Loss

If a child loses a baby tooth before the permanent teeth is ready to move in, it’s generally because of tooth decay, injury, or lack of jaw space.  If left untreated, the remaining teeth could crowd into the space intended for the permanent tooth.

How to Prevent Early Tooth Loss

To prevent tooth decay, start your child out on a proper oral hygiene routine from the day they’re born.  Since nutrition is a large factor in our dental health, make sure to provide healthy, sugar-free foods.  If your child’s tooth falls out early, your dentist will most likely recommend a space maintainer, a plastic or metal device that holds open the space left by the missing tooth.  Once the permanent tooth erupts, the device will be removed.

How Does a Pacifier Affect My Baby’s Teeth?

Almost all children suck on their fingers or a pacifier.  And if you have one of those kids that can’t seem to calm down for anything but their binky, it’s hard to imagine not passing it over when they start to get fussy.

Sucking on fingers or a pacifier is a way for kids to comfort themselves, reduce anxiety, and feel secure. This habit is perfectly acceptable for young kids.  The only real harm comes when sucking on a pacifier or fingers lasts for a long period of time.

Kids are okay to suck on a pacifier or thumb while they have their baby teeth, but the habit should ideally be completely broken before their permanent teeth begin to erupt.  Typically, their permanent teeth will begin to push through at age 6, but parents should start to eliminate the sucking habit at age 4.  A pediatric dentist can closely monitor the development of your child’s teeth and jaw to make sure they’re developing properly.

Doctors and dentists agree that the earlier the pacifier is taken away, the easier it stops the habit.  If a child uses a pacifier when they’re permanent teeth are coming in, it could cause the front teeth to be pushed forward.  This sets the stage for future dental problems and could cause the development of a lisp.

Rules for the Pacifier:

  • Let your baby decide if they want a pacifier or not.  Some will take it right away, and some won’t take it at all.  If they won’t take it, don’t force it.
  • Offer the pacifier between feedings.  Don’t use it to neglect your baby or put off feeding time.
  • Try giving the binky before a nap.  Some research shows that sucking on a pacifier at naptime and bedtime may reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.
  • Never tie the pacifier around your baby’s neck.  They could strangle themselves if the cord gets stuck.
  • NEVER clean a pacifier by putting it in your mouth. Cavities are contagious, and you could unknowingly be passing on the cavity-causing bacteria from your mouth.
  • Don’t dip the pacifier in juice or sugar before giving it to your child.  The sugar will cause decay in their teeth.

6 Long Term Health Effects of Poor Oral Hygiene

People generally agree that good oral hygiene is essential to overall good health.  But do you know why?

Unfortunately, many of us don’t.  We know there is a connection; we’re just not exactly sure how deep that connection is.

This lack of knowledge has undoubtedly led to the childhood dental disease epidemic that is currently running rampant in the US.  After all, if parents knew the long-term consequences of poor oral health, brushing and flossing would surely move to the top of the priority list.

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Here are just a handful of the dangers of poor oral hygiene:

  • Increased risk of heart attack – Oral bacteria and gum inflammation can lead to arterial inflammation, plaque build-up, and clotting.
  • Increased risk of stroke – Can cause plaque build-up in carotid arteries and clotting.
  • Increased risk of dementia – Studies show a relationship between people who lost more teeth before the age of 35 and an increased risk of dementia.
  • Severe diabetes mellitus – Severe periodontal disease often accompanies severe diabetes mellitus and is considered the 6th complication of diabetes.
  • Pregnancy complications – Increased risk of having a pre-term baby or baby with low birth weight.
  • Respiratory disease – Oral bacteria can be breathed into lungs and cause infections such as pneumonia or exacerbate existing conditions, such as COPD.

(Want the more scientific explanation? This article goes into more detail.)

While it is true that baby teeth will eventually fall out, it is NOT true that the unhealthiness will disappear wtih them.  Unhealthy baby teeth lead directly to unhealthy adult teeth – as well as the long list of complications to go along with them.

It might be a battle every night over brushing, but it’s definitely a battle you want to pick.

7 Reasons You and Your Child Should Get Your Teeth Cleaned

It’s hard to get to the dentist.  There’s no doubt about that.  And without any noticeable pain or discomfort, it’s easy to keep putting it off until absolutely necessary.  In the long run, however, it’s much cheaper – a much less painful – to schedule regular visits to the dentist than to wait for a problem to arise, which often leads to expensive work like root canals or crowns.  If you don’t have an hour to spare for a quick cleaning, you definitely don’t have a spare day to be out of commission with a toothache.

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Besides the clean, healthy feeling you’ll get from a biannual cleaning, here are 10 great reasons to pick up the phone and get in that dental chair:

  1. Prevent oral cancer.

You may not be aware that you’re screened for oral cancer each time you have a dental cleaning.  According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, an American dies every hour from oral cancer, despite the fact that it is highly curable with an early diagnosis.

  1. Fight off gum disease.

Gum disease is one of the leading causes of adult tooth loss, but it can be treated and reversed with an early diagnosis.  If it goes undetected, it will continue to worsen.

  1. Be heart healthy.

Studies have linked heart attacks and strokes to gum disease caused by poor oral hygiene.

  1. Preserve your smile.

Tooth decay and gum disease ultimately lead to teeth falling out or being pulled out.  To keep all of your pearly whites intact, visit a dentist regularly.

  1. Detect dental problems early.

Most serious oral health complications can be prevented and possibly even reversed with early detection.

  1. Know you’re doing it right.

You care for your teeth every day twice a day, but a dentist can confirm whether or not your efforts are worthwhile.

  1. Take advantage of your dental insurance.

Many dental insurance plans cover biannual preventative appointments.  Take advantage of these and avoid costly procedures in the future.

Teaching Your Child To Floss

Let’s face it – as adults, we generally don’t floss, despite the constant nagging from our dentists and the guilt-ridden, embarrassed responses we’re forced to give twice a year when the hygienist asks us how often we floss.  And if we don’t floss, how can we possibly expect our children to pick up the habit?

We know, we know. It’s just another thing to add to your never-ending to-do list.  Getting kids to brush their teeth is hard enough; let alone asking them to add another 2 minutes onto their bedtime routine.

According to dentists, flossing is even MORE important than brushing when it comes to preventing periodontal disease and tooth decay.  Brushing covers the surface of the tooth, but your tongue and saliva help to reduce plaque in those areas as well.  Between your teeth is a whole other story.  Food particles (yes, even if you can’t see them) get stuck between your teeth, attracting cavity-causing bacteria.  If you aren’t flossing, you’re missing out on cleaning up to 40% of your tooth.

As soon as your child has two teeth that are touching, it’s time to start the flossing routine.  As with brushing, they’ll require supervision until they’re about 7 or 8 years old.  To make it more enjoyable, let your child pick their favorite flavored floss.  To make it easier, let your child use a pre-threaded flosser of floss holder to maneuver around all of their teeth.

THREE EASY STEPS TO FLOSSING

Step One. To begin flossing, have your child cut off a piece of floss approximately 18 inches long.

Step Two. Have them wrap the ends around their middle or index fingers on both hands.

Step Three. Next, have them gently guide the floss between their teeth, carefully moving the floss around the tooth and under the gum line. Make sure they floss between the gum line and the side of each tooth.