Children's teeth

From brushing their first tooth to their first trip to the dentist, here's how to take care of your children’s teeth.

A regular teeth-cleaning routine is essential for good dental health. Follow these tips and you can help keep your kids' teeth decay-free:   

  • Start brushing your baby's teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first milk tooth breaks through (usually at around six months, but it can be earlier or later). It's important to use a fluoride paste as this helps prevent and control tooth decay. 
  • Children under the age of three can use a smear of family toothpaste containing at least 1,000ppm (parts per million) fluoride. Toothpaste with less fluoride is not as effective at preventing decay. Children between the ages of three and six should use a pea-sized blob of toothpaste containing 1,350-1,500ppm fluoride. Check the toothpaste packet for this information or ask your dentist. 
  • Make sure your child doesn’t eat or lick the toothpaste from the tube.
  • Brush your child's teeth for at least two minutes twice a day, once just before bedtime and at least one other time during the day.
  • Encourage them to spit out excess toothpaste but not to rinse with lots of water. Rinsing with water after toothbrushing will wash away the fluoride and reduce its benefits.
  • Supervise tooth brushing until your child is seven or eight years old, either by brushing their teeth yourself or, if they brush their own teeth, by watching how they do it. From the age of seven or eight they should be able to brush their own teeth, but it’s still a good idea to watch them now and again to make sure they brush properly and for the whole two minutes.

Making sure they brush properly

  • Guide your child's hand so they can feel the correct movement.
  • Use a mirror to help your child see exactly where the brush is cleaning their teeth.
  • Make tooth brushing as fun as possible, using an egg timer to time it for at least two minutes.
  • Don't let children run around with a toothbrush in their mouth as they may have an accident and hurt themselves.

Taking your child to the dentist

  • Take your child to the dentist when the first milk teeth appear. This is so they become familiar with the environment and get to know the dentist. The dentist can help to prevent decay and identify any health problems at an early stage. Just opening up the child's mouth for the dentist to take a look is useful practice for when they could benefit from future preventive care. 
  • When you visit the dentist, be positive about it and make the trip fun. This will stop your child worrying about future visits. NHS dental care for children is free.
  • Take your child for regular dental check-ups as advised by the dentist.

Find your nearest dentist.

Fluoride varnish and fissure sealants

  • Fissure sealants can be done once your child’s permanent back teeth have started to come through (usually at the age of about six or seven) to protect them from decay. This is where the chewing surfaces of the back teeth are covered with a special thin plastic coating to keep germs and food particles out of the grooves. The sealant can last for as long as 5 to 10 years.
  • Fluoride varnish can be applied to both baby teeth and adult teeth. The process involves painting a varnish containing high levels of fluoride onto the surface of the tooth every six months to prevent decay. It works by strengthening tooth enamel, making it more resistant to decay.
  • From the age of three, all children should be offered fluoride varnish application at least twice a year or more often if needed.

Ask your dentist about fluoride varnish or fissure sealing.

Read more tips on how to look after your children's teeth.

 

Page last reviewed: 02/12/2013

Next review due: 02/12/2015

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 45 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating

Comments

Services near you

Find addresses, phone numbers and websites for services near you

Looking after your infant's teeth

Advice on brushing your child's teeth, plus advice on giving them a tooth-friendly diet

All about teething

Information about teething, including when babies get their teeth and how to make teething easier

Braces

Find out how braces can improve your smile, plus how to get treatment on the NHS

Kids' teeth Q&As

Good habits for keeping kids' teeth healthy, including fewer fizzy drinks and less sugar

Dental health

How to care for your teeth including check-ups, brushing, braces and whitening