Oral Health for Children (3 years and older)

Tooth decay is preventable. Follow the tips on this page to keep your child's teeth healthy.

Children's first teeth (baby teeth) are just as important as their adult teeth. 

Healthy teeth are important for eating, drinking, talking and smiling.

Baby teeth are important. They guide the adult teeth into the right position. If they are lost early then the spaces for the adult teeth can be lost. The adult teeth may come through crooked.

Tooth decay can cause pain, infection, sleepless nights, time off nursery or school and time off work for parents and carers.

Children often need a general anaesthetic to have decayed teeth removed. Tooth decay is the most common reason for 6 to 10 years olds to be admitted to hospital.

  • NHS dental treatment is free for children under 18 or under 19 and in qualifying full-time education
  • Children should have a dental check up at least once a year
  • Going to the dentist regularly helps the child become familiar with them. It allows the dentist to pick up on any problems as early as possible
  • The dentist can paint varnish containing fluoride on children’s teeth to protect them from tooth decay
  • Be positive
  • Explain what will happen. You could use dental themed books and videos
  • Role play being at the dentist
  • Book the appointment at a time when your child is usually happy
  • Bring toys
  • Offer rewards such as stickers (not sweets)
  • Bring them to your appointments

  • Milk and water are the safest drinks for teeth
  • Keep sugary foods and drinks to mealtimes only
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks in the hour before bedtime
  • If your child needs medicine, ask your local community pharmacist or GP for a sugar-free option

Further information

  • Brush all the surfaces of the teeth and gumline in small circles for 2 minutes, twice a day
  • Brush last thing at night and one other time that fits in with your routine
  • For younger children you should sit your child on your lap or stand behing them and cradle their head while you are brushing their teeth
  • Spit out the toothpaste and do not rinse! Rinsing washes away the fluoride so it can’t do its job
  • Children aged 3 and over should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste containing 1350-1500ppm fluoride for maximum protection.  Most own brand supermarket toothpastes are ok
  • Each family member should have their own toothbrush to stop the spread of germs
  • Treat toothpaste like any other medicine and keep it out of reach of children
  • Set a good example. Let them see you brushing your teeth
  • Brushing your child's teeth can be difficult. You are not alone!
  • Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste is more important than good toothbrushing technique!
  • Some brushing is better than none, don't give up
  • Consider using rewards, games or clapping to make tooth brushing fun or encourage them to brush the teeth of their doll or stuffed toy

Here are links for some helpful videos:


Other helpful information: