How Can I Look After My Child’s Teeth?

Mom and Daughter Brushing TeethYou can take care of your child’s teeth by:

  • Making sure they brush their teeth regularly
  • Taking them to the dentist regularly
  • Avoiding sugary foods and drinks such as soft or fizzy drinks and sweetened juices

Brushing Your Child’s Teeth

Brushing your child’s teeth is an important part of their 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 their teeth begin to come through.

Your child’s teeth should be brushed twice a day: last thing at night before bed and at least one other time. Nothing should be eaten or drunk in the last hour before they go to bed, except plain water.

The amount of toothpaste used 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 water or mouthwash. Children younger than six should not use a mouthwash.

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.

Fluoride Toothpaste

All children should use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride can be measured in parts per million (ppm) and this is stated on the back of the toothpaste tube.

Children under three should use toothpaste containing no less than 1,000 ppm fluoride.

Children between three and six years can use a toothpaste containing up to 1,350 ppm fluoride.

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

In certain circumstances, your dentist may recommend higher ppm fluoride toothpaste for your child.

Visiting the Dentist

Take your child to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear. NHS dental treatment for children is free.

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 come into contact with sugar.

Swap sugary drinks such as squash and fizzy drinks for water, lower-fat milks, diet, sugar-free and no-added-sugar drinks instead.

You should also limit fruit juice and smoothies to a small (150ml) glass a day. Remember to limit fruit juices to mealtimes as they can cause tooth decay. Watch out for drinks that say “juice drink” on the pack as they are unlikely to count towards your 5 A DAY and can be high in 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 by limiting sugary foods to mealtimes. Your child shouldn’t have food and drink with added sugar more than three times a day.

Drinks containing sugars – including natural fruit juices, milkshakes, smoothies and “no added sugar” cordials that can be diluted – should be avoided between meals. Water or milk should be given instead.

For children aged up to three years, 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, read common questions about baby food and what foods to avoid.

Read the answers to more questions about dental health.

Further Information:

About the Author

NHS Choices ( is the UK’s biggest health website. It provides a comprehensive health information service to help put you in control of your healthcare.


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