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Looking after your child’s teeth

As dentists, one of the things we get asked on a regular basis is how to clean children’s teeth efficiently.

The latest figures from the Local Government Association (LGA) found that hospital extractions for under 18s in England are up almost a fifth over the last four years. Teenager and child tooth extractions hit record highs last year, working out as 170 hospital operations per day.

To help decrease this figure and answer some of the questions that we get asked often, we have put together a guide on how to keep your child’s teeth and mouth squeaky clean and free of decay.


It is important to use a fluoridated toothpaste to protect your child’s teeth from tooth decay. You should be aware of how much fluoride is recommended for the age of your child. Some kinds of toothpaste that are specially marketed towards children don’t actually contain enough fluoride. The toothpaste contents should be stated on the tube.

Children from the age of seven can use regular toothpaste, as long as it contains 1,350-1,500 parts per million of fluoride. Children up to the age of six who are free of tooth decay can use a lower strength toothpaste as long as it contains at least 1,000 parts per million. If your child is aged three to six, they should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and if they are below the age of three should use just a smear.

It’s extremely important you do not let your child eat or lick toothpaste from the tube, or swallow it after brushing.

Tooth brushing

You should brush your child’s teeth the same as you would brush yours – once before bed and once at another time during the day. You should also not brush within an hour of eating or drinking as this can damage the enamel on the teeth.

Encourage your child to spit out any excess toothpaste after brushing. Rinsing with water washes away the fluoride in the toothpaste so should be avoided. This can make it less effective at protecting the teeth.

Supervising and helping your child brush their teeth is recommended until the age of seven or eight, but we think a gentle reminder every now and then is a good idea even when your child has entered the teenage years.

When your child is learning to brush their own teeth, there are several steps you can do to help:

  • Let your child watch you brush your own teeth
  • Guide your child’s hand so they can learn the correct movement
  • Use a mirror to help your child see exactly where they are brushing
  • Make tooth brushing fun by using a timer (set for 2 minutes)

Going to the dentist

Developing a regular oral health routine is extremely important for you and your child. You should start brushing their teeth as soon as their first tooth starts to break through the gum. We also recommend that you bring your child along to your own dental appointments. This allows them to get used to the sights and sounds of the practice before their own appointment.

When you take your child to the dentist, make it a positive experience. If you have nerves surrounding the dentist yourself, make sure this doesn’t affect your child. This will stop them from becoming worried about future dentist appointments.

Fissure sealants are often used when your child’s permanent back teeth have started coming through. They are a thin layer of plastic that protect the teeth from decay. The plastic coating keeps germs and food particles out of the grooves of the teeth and lasts five to ten years.

Fluoride varnish is a treatment that might be offered to your child. This varnish can be applied to baby and adult teeth every six months to strengthen the enamel and prevent decay.

Food and drink

It is a well-known fact that sweets, chocolate and fizzy drinks are bad for your teeth. However, this doesn’t mean to have to ban your child from having these. We recommend limiting your child’s consumption of these sweet treats to at meal times. This will cut down the regularity of acids in the mouth, reducing the risk of tooth decay.

The best snacks to give your child are fruit and raw vegetables like bananas, cucumber and carrot sticks. Toast, rice cakes and plain popcorn are also good snacks as they contain low sugar. Snacks marketed as healthy such as dried fruit can actually cause damage to teeth so limit these to meal times only.

The best drinks for children to have are still water and milk. Try to avoid fizzy drinks at all costs as the large amount of sugar and acid they contain will increase the risk of tooth decay.

If you would like more advice on how to look after your child’s teeth or would like to book a check-up appointment for your child, call Oak Mount Dental Practice on 0161 445 1211.

Posted by Oak Mount Dental Practice

Website last updated: June 2022

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