In the Loop with Floss

July 1, 2008
Children may become frustrated when they make the effort to tie their shoelaces for the first time and are unsuccessful.

Children may become frustrated when they make the effort to tie their shoelaces for the first time and are unsuccessful. Criss- crossing, looping, and securing a tight knot and bow are essential skills that must be mastered when the child's finger and mental dexterity are developed. There is no set rule for when to teach shoelace tying to children. Some experts say between four to six years of age may be when children are ready, and another gauge is when the child can differentiate left from right.

Be assured, with lots of patience and practice, nearly all children can learn basic knot and bow tying steps. It is important to choose the right shoelaces for the training. Thin, synthetic laces may be slippery, small, and more difficult for a beginner, so it is best to avoid these types at first. Soft, wide, and thick fiber-type laces provide enhanced friction, which make for a better grip and make laces easier to secure. Shoelaces and dental floss have some things in common. Like shoelaces, dental flosses come in a variety of thicknesses. Floss may work better when it is thick, which makes it easier for some patients to hold and maneuver.

As the techniques for shoe tying are taught, it's a good idea to have the child sit beside the teacher rather than opposite the teacher. When the child can directly copy lacing movements rather than mirror them, tying the laces becomes easier. Likewise, consider teaching your patients how to hold and use floss with the same side-by-side concept. ToothZone's Sponge Floss has multiple strands of expanded fibers woven together on a spool. This unique floss has the added benefit of being coated wth xylitol for anticariogenic protection, all in naturally-sweetened waxed floss. Floss which expands during use is offered by Sunstar Americas, Inc., and is appropriately named GUM Expanding Floss. This floss's soluble wax coating with textured nylon filaments is removed with moisture from saliva, then expands with flossing friction to remove plaque. This floss is a great choice for patients with sensitivity and gingival recession.

A number of flosses have beneficial additions integrated into the fibers. A type of infused floss is Johnson & Johnson's Reach Cleanpaste floss. Complete with a toothpaste-like formula, Cleanpaste leaves the mouth feeling refreshed, almost as if one has brushed. Even with the added paste, the floss fits cleanly into tight teeth and leaves no mess.

To stay informed about new flosses, try sampling and recommending Pocket Floss. Pocket Floss uses a contained loop system, and the floss loop works well for some patients because it is convenient, simple, and will not cause the fingers to turn purple as when traditionally holding floss tightly. Pocket Floss is distinctive because the loop is grasped, and tension is the job of the container. When flossing is finished, the floss remains in the self-contained dispenser, which is antimicrobially treated to prevent bacteria from harboring. floss remains in the self-contained dispenser, which is antimicrobially treated to prevent bacteria from harboring.

The container is appealing and has a trigger to release the floss. However, do not expect excess floss to be dispensed, because the loop system recommends six inches.

New Ultra Floss by Oral-B needs a longer string of floss to remove plaque. UltraFloss uses color markers on the floss strand to show a premeasured and recommended amount for the flosser to dispense. This stretchy floss comes in either natural or fresh mint flavors and can be made thin to fit tight contacts. Also, the spongy nylon fibers spring back after they are inserted into tight contacts to fill spaces and remove debris from interproximal spaces.

When floss strands are joined together they become very strong. Believe it or not, floss has been used for more than plaque removal in the prison system. Floss has been braided together to form makeshift ropes for inmates to escape. And as unlikely as it sounds, floss has also been used in a saw-like fashion to cut through metal bars. Tough stuff! But prisons cannot simply remove floss because then inmates could protest they're being denied the right to keep their mouths clean. To keep prisioners from using floss to escape, safety floss can be given to them because it cannot be used as a saw, weapon, or to pick handcuffs or cell locks. The safety floss is called Floss Loops, and almost looks like flossing with a rubber band. Floss Loops cannot be made into a rope because they break when necessary, yet remove interproximal plaque safely. They are available in clear or a variety of colors, and come in mint, cherry, and grape flavors.

Glide floss by Procter & Gamble easily slides interproximally and is shred resistant. Glide brand also makes Glide Deep Clean and Glide Comfort Plus. Glide Deep Clean is wider than original Glide. It is textured and comes in a cool mint flavor. The Comfort Plus is two times softer on fingers and gums. Glide has a new addition, Glide Whitening Plus, which is infused with the flavor of Scope mouthwash.

When a child removes his or her shoes, it's a good idea to make sure the laces are untied. The child will get more practice tying them each time he/she wears the shoes. Just like learning to tie shoelaces takes lots of patience and practice, working with dental floss requires diligence and good technique.

The author did not receive compensation for products mentioned. Stay in the loop with flossing and visit,,,,, and

About the Author

Karen Kaiser, RDH, graduated from St. Louis' Forest Park dental hygiene program in 1994 and currently practices at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry in Columbia, Ill. She has written several articles for RDH and other publications, sits on dental hygiene panels, and is an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates. She can be contacted at [email protected].