How can I look after my child's teeth?

You can take care of your child's teeth by:

  • making sure they brush their teeth regularly
  • taking them to the dentist regularly
  • cutting down on the amount and frequency of sugar they have

Brushing your child's teeth

Brushing their teeth is an important part of your child's daily routine, so they continue the healthy habit as they get older.

Start to brush your baby's teeth using a baby toothbrush as soon as they begin to come through.

Gradually start brushing your child's teeth more thoroughly. Make sure you clean all the tooth surfaces. Your child's teeth should be brushed twice a day: last thing at night before bed and at least one other time.

Use a small-headed child's toothbrush suitable for your child's age.

The amount of toothpaste also depends on your child's age. For children under three years, use a smear or thin film of toothpaste that covers less than three-quarters of the brush. For children aged three to six, use no more than a pea-sized blob of toothpaste.

When your child has finished brushing, encourage them to spit out the toothpaste that's left, but not to rinse their mouth with lots of water.

Don't let your child eat or lick toothpaste from the tube.

Help your child to brush their teeth or supervise them until they're at least seven years old. 

Flossing your child's teeth is also recommended as well as brushing.

Fluoride toothpaste

All children should use fluoride toothpaste.

Children under three should use a toothpaste containing no less than 1,000 ppm (parts per million) fluoride. The packaging will show the level of fluoride in the toothpaste.

Older children can use family fluoride toothpaste that contains 1,350-1,500 ppm fluoride.

Visiting the dentist

You can take your child to an NHS dentist as soon as they're born, before they've got any teeth. NHS dental treatment for children is free.

Take your child with you when you go for your own dental appointments so they get used to the idea.

Your child should have regular dental check-ups as often as your dentist recommends.

Sugar causes tooth decay

Tooth decay is caused by the amount of sugar in sweet food and drinks and how often teeth are in contact with the sugar.

For more information, see Which foods and drinks containing sugar cause tooth decay?

Cutting down on sugar

Try cutting down how often your child has sugary food and drinks and how much sugary food and drinks they consume.

Limit sugary foods to mealtimes. Your child shouldn't have food and drink with added sugar more than four times a day.

Drinks containing sugars, including natural fruit juices, should be avoided between meals. Water or milk may be given instead.

For babies, don't add sugar to their weaning foods when you introduce them to solids.

If your child needs medicine, ask your pharmacist or GP if a sugar-free version is available.

Find more information in common questions about baby food and what foods to avoid.

Read the answers to more questions about dental health.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 15/08/2012

Next review due: 14/08/2014