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 frequency of sugar

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 every 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 age three, 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 as this can cause something called Fluorosis. Fluorosis is opaque or white areas and lines or flecks on the teeth this is permanent staining of the teeth and cannot be removed. Fluorosis is most noticeable on the front teeth.Help your child to brush their teeth or supervise them until they’re at least seven years old. 

Fluoride toothpaste

All children should use fluoride toothpaste.

Children under age 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

Cutting down on sugar

You can try to limit tooth decay by cutting down:

  • how often your child has sugary food and drinks
  • 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.

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.