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Looking after your teeth

Child being fed

From brushing their first tooth to their first trip to the dentist, here’s how to take care of your children’s teeth.

Top tips

Tooth brushing
Brush teeth last thing at night and another time during the day. Spit out after brushing. Do not rinse – it washes all the lovely protective flouride off your teeth. For more tooth brushing advice, see our brushing teeth section

Use a toothpaste containing 1450ppm of fluoride.

For ages 0-3 use a smear of toothpaste. For ages 3+ use a pea-sized amount. For more tooth brushing advice, see our brushing teeth section.

Eating the right things

Try to reduce the frequency and amount of sugary food and drink being eaten. Try to keep sweet things to meal times only. For more advice on the best food for strong teeth, see our healthy snacks section

Dental visits

Visit the dentist regularly. Children should have a dental check by the age of one year old.

To find an NHS dentist visit the website.

There is also a contact telephone number for those having trouble finding a dentist: NHS England’s Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 2233.

For emergency dental treatment telephone the NHS service on 111.

Breastfeeding and baby teeth

Breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for babies. From six months of age infants should be introduced to drinking from a free-flow cup. Introducing a free flow cup reduces the potential for young children to suck for long periods of time from bottles. The only drinks to be given in a bottle should be plain milk or plain water. From age one, feeding from a bottle should be discouraged. Sugar should not be added to weaning foods or drinks.

Remember the only safe drinks for teeth are plain milk and plain water.


Dummies should never be dipped into sugary liquid and never be used as a permanent replacement for comfort, attention or feeding. From age of one the use of a dummy should be avoided as this can lead to speech development problems.

Teething adviceDates and diagram for teeth coming through

Babies put their hands in their mouth and dribble in preparation to eat solid foods. However, this stage coincides with teething. During teething you may notice:

  • more dribbling than usual
  • red and sore gums where a tooth is coming through
  • flushed cheek on one side
  • rubbing one ear
  • chewing on things more than usual 

To give your baby some short-term relief you can give your baby something to chew on, like a teething ring. Avoid giving rusks as they are high in sugar. There is no evidence to support that babies get fever or diarrhoea due to teething. However, if your baby is in pain they can be given sugar-free paracetamol (calpol) or sugar-free ibuprofen.

6+ years

Your child will begin losing their baby teeth around the age of six. The first teeth to be lost are usually the lower and upper front teeth. This is then followed by the eruption of the first big adult teeth at the back (first permanent molars). The last baby tooth is usually lost around the age of 12 years.

Brushing teeth

Brush baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. Teeth should be brushed twice a day – last thing at night and one other occasion using a smear of fluoride toothpaste containing no less than 1000 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride. It will tell you on the tube how much fluoride the toothpaste contains.

You should supervise tooth brushing until your child is at least 7 years old. 

Two photos showing a small and large amount of toothpaste on a toothbrush

For children less than three years of age use a smear of fluoride toothpaste. For older children use a pea-sized amount.

Tooth brushing games and songs

To make brushing more fun, try out the different tooth brushing songs, games and apps below

Healthy snacks

Try to limit your child’s intake of sugary food/drink. The more often they have these foods the more likely they are to develop dental decay.

Tooth-friendly snacks

  • Raw vegetables, you could even add a dip
  • Fresh fruit i.e. a banana
  • Tinned fruit (in natural juice) with plain natural yoghurt
  • Pieces of cheese
  • Crackers/breadsticks
  • Bread products with low fat spreads i.e. toast, pitta breads, crumpets
  • Plain popcorn
  • Sandwiches – fillings could include: cheddar and celery, cream cheese and cucumber, tuna and sweetcorn, ham or chicken, houmous and grated carrots


Remember the safest drinks for teeth are plain milk or plain water.

For more information on how to cut down on sugary food and drink click on the Change For Life sugar smart website.

Avoiding smoking

Smoking or chewing tobacco can:

  • Damage teeth and gums
  • Cause bad breath
  • Lead to stained teeth, gum disease and tooth loss
  • Cause loss of taste and irritate the gums

Both tobacco and alcohol use increases the risk of developing mouth cancer. For advice on how to stop smoking contact Yorkshire Smoke Free Service.


If your child or young person are involved with any contact sport i.e. rugby or boxing – make sure they wear a mouthguard.

A mouthguard is a protective device for the mouth that covers the teeth and gums to prevent and reduce injury to the teeth, lips and gums.

The best ones are the ones that are made especially for you by a dentist. 


This is a type of treatment that helps to straighten teeth; it can work to improve the appearance, position and function of teeth.

Orthodontic treatment is only available free-of-charge on the NHS for young people who:

  • are under 18 years old
  • have a clear clinical need for treatment

Your dentist will inform you if your child needs orthodontic treatment.

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