Tips for parents

 Start brushing your baby's teeth as soon as they begin to appear. Continue to clean your child’s teeth until they are old enough to do it themselves. This will usually be at least seven years of age.

Brushing your baby's teeth
Brush your baby’s teeth twice a day using a small smear of children’s fluoride toothpaste (see box, left) on a children’s toothbrush. Children’s fluoride toothpastes contain lower levels of fluoride than adult fluoride toothpastes.

Children’s toothbrushes have very small heads and soft bristles. They may be available to buy from:
  • your dental surgery
  • a pharmacy
  • a large supermarket

The easiest way to brush a baby’s teeth is to sit them on your knee with their head resting against your chest. Brush the teeth in small circles, covering all the surfaces of the teeth.

Brushing your baby’s teeth will get your baby used to teeth brushing as part of their everyday routine. You can set a good example by letting them watch you brushing your teeth.

Brushing your child's teeth
You will need to help your child brush their teeth until they are at least seven years of age. It is important to help them up until this time to ensure they are brushing their teeth correctly.

When brushing your child’s teeth, you may find it easiest to sit or stand behind your child and gently hold their chin. This should allow you to get at both their top and bottom teeth.

Brush your child's teeth twice a day, for example:
  • after breakfast
  • before your child goes to bed

Try to get into a regular tooth-brushing routine. This will help your child when they start to brush their teeth on their own.

Use a pea-sized amount of children’s fluoride toothpaste and a brush that has been designed for children. When your child is around seven years of age, an adult toothpaste can be used. Encourage your child to spit out the toothpaste after brushing. They should not rinse with water afterwards because this has been found to reduce the benefit of fluoride (a mineral that helps to prevent tooth decay).

Teach your child the best way to brush their teeth before they start to clean them on their own. They should use gentle circular motions to clean each tooth individually. They also need to brush the back of each tooth and gently along the gum line.

Give your child praise and encouragement when they brush their teeth well so that they develop good brushing habits. It may help if you brush your own teeth at the same time and then help your child to ‘finish off’. When your child first starts to brush their teeth on their own, check every few days to make sure that they are doing it correctly.

When to visit the dentist
You can take your child to an NHS dentist as soon as they are born, even before they have any teeth. Your dentist will be able to advise you about how often your child should attend dental appointments for a check-up. This will usually be at least once a year. NHS dental treatment for children is free.

If you take your baby to the dentist when their first teeth start to appear (at around six months of age), your dentist will be able to check that their teeth are developing correctly. They can also give you guidance about how to care for your baby's teeth and how to ease problems such as teething (when a baby’s teeth begin to emerge through their gums).

It is also a good idea to take your child with you when you go to the dentist as this will help them become familiar and comfortable with the surroundings. Getting your child used to the sights and sounds of a dental surgery will help put them at ease when they have to go for their own check-ups.

To find a dentist in your local area, use the Find services directory or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647