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:  

Toothpaste tips 

  • 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 to prevent and control tooth decay. 
  • There's no need to buy special "children's toothpaste" brands. In fact, some of them don’t have enough fluoride in them to help prevent tooth decay. 
  • Children of all ages can use family toothpaste, as long as it contains 1,350-1,500 parts per million (ppm) fluoride. Check the toothpaste packet if you're not sure, or ask your dentist.
  • Children under the age of six who don't have tooth decay can use a lower-strength toothpaste, but make sure it contains at least 1,000ppm fluoride. 
  • Make sure children don't eat or lick toothpaste from the tube.  
  • Below the age of three years, children should use just a smear of toothpaste.
  • Children aged three to six should use a pea-sized blob of toothpaste.  

Toothbrushing tips

  • Brush your child's teeth for about 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 tooth brushing will wash away the fluoride and make it less effective.
  • 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 about two minutes.

How to help children brush their teeth 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 by using an egg timer to time it for about 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

  • NHS dental care for children is free.
  • Take your child to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear. This is so they become familiar with the environment and get to know the dentist. The dentist can help prevent decay and identify any oral health problems at an early stage. Just opening up the child's mouth for the dentist to take a look at is useful practise for the future. 
  • When you visit the dentist, be positive about it and make the trip fun. This will stop your child worrying about future visits.
  • 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. It involves painting a varnish that contains high levels of fluoride on to 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, children should be offered fluoride varnish application at least twice a year. Younger children may also be offered this treatment if your dentist thinks they need it.

Ask your dentist about fluoride varnish or fissure sealing.

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

Page last reviewed: 25/11/2015

Next review due: 25/11/2017


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Gemmota said on 22 April 2015

I can't understand how we are supposed to take care of our children's teeth if NHS dentists seems to no exist! After calling more than 50 dentists in the Manchester area, I've never found any accepting new patients. And sorry, I can't afford paying a private dentist that will do all the possible to get your teeth worst so you'll have to increase dental visits and pay more and more...

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