Toothpaste, Fluoride Varnish & Other Tips for Healthy Kids’ 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:

  • help brushing teethStart brushing your baby’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first milk tooth (baby 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 (baby 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 (in the UK*).
  • 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.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US audience.

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.


14 Responses to “Toothpaste, Fluoride Varnish & Other Tips for Healthy Kids’ Teeth”

  1. Tom Shrill says:

    That is interesting that you can have a child as young as three or less use fluoride toothpaste. I remember hearing about how you should avoid it at all costs until they learn not to swallow the toothpaste. It would be good to probably look more into it. Because fluoride may be good for teeth, but I’m pretty sure it’s bad for stomachs.

  2. Andre Beluchi says:

    Oh hey, the advice that mentioned about taking my child to the dentist when the first baby tooth pops out is what even my dentist informed me about. With my child being 6 months it’s something that my wife is keeping track of especially when the tooth pops out. This is something that we’re both nervous and excited for in the life our child.

    • Stefanie Zucker Stefanie Zucker says:

      Congratulations on the new baby! That trip to the dentist is going to be the first of many wonderful milestones! Enjoy each one…and please come back and tell us about them 🙂 Ps. Glad to hear you’re already planning your first dental visit – sounds like a lifetime of healthy teeth ahead!

  3. I let the kids pick out their own toothpaste. That way they are involved in the process and want to brush. It is smart and good if you are doing this while your kids are young to get good habits going. I think letting kids get their own brushes is a huge thing for many years toothbrushes were pretty boring- no more. Now they have such cute brushes for boys and for girls.

    • Stefanie Zucker Stefanie Zucker says:

      Definitely a great idea letting the kids pick out their own. And you’re right, they’ll always use them more if they chose them. Funny how many more choices there are these days. It can make it so much harder on parents…but then again, you can also find ways to use it to your advantage. Well done Mom!! 🙂

  4. Jenn says:

    I like that you can get fluoride painted on your teeth. We have the hardest time setting a consistent teeth brushing schedule for my toddler. I think we need to look into that with our dentist to try and prevent cavities. I had no idea that stuff existed! Thank you for the tips here. I don’t want my little guy’s baby teeth to get cavities!

  5. As a mother of three, I really appreciate any tips that I can find to help my kids, and I have been in need of help in dental tips lately. It is interesting that you pointed out that it is important to take your kids to a family dentist as soon as their first teeth appear. I didn’t realize it was that soon, but I will definitely start taking them earlier. I imagine having them go earlier would promote better dental health their whole lives. Thanks for the information!

  6. It’s interesting that this article recommends children being supervised during brushing even as old as seven or eight. I would have thought that by four or five years old a child would be fine to brush by themselves. That’s why I’m so glad to find articles like this! I would hate to not do things right with my daughter. Thanks for the info!

  7. Elden Gatley says:

    I think it’s incredible that fissure sealants can last 5 to 10 years. Many people are used to going to the dentist every 6 months, but they don’t want to have to get major work done every time. I think if they maintain their fissure sealants, they will be in good shape.

  8. Silas Knight says:

    We are about to have our first child, and we realized we have no idea how to care for their oral health. These tips you have here are great, I didn’t know that we should take him in to the dentist when the first baby teeth appear. We will remember that, thanks for the help!

    • Stefanie Zucker Stefanie Zucker says:

      Thanks Silas… the more you can turn something potentially scary into something fun, the easier it will be to take them back as they get older. Thanks for stopping by and letting us know this was helpful!

  9. Brian says:

    Its really important to make sure your kids develop good brushing habits and techniques at an early age because it makes it so much easier to maintain when you get older, rather than trying to rebuild those habits.

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