Children's Dental Health

Ensuring good dental health from an early age is very important. It stands children in good stead for the long term health of their teeth and gums.

Whether it's brushing their first tooth, developing a teeth cleaning routine, or the first trip to the dentist, there are plenty of ways you can support your child to keep their teeth healthy and their smile bright!

Below are some top tips to looking after your child’s teeth

  • As soon as a tooth appears brush your child’s teeth for about two minutes twice a day.
  • Try to brush your child’s teeth in the morning and just before bedtime. Encourage them to spit out the toothpaste - don’t rinse! Use our tooth brushing chart (PDF, 117KB) to keep track
  • Read our Keep Suffolk Smiling leaflet (PDF, 302KB)
  • Take your child to the dentist regularly and before their second birthday

Toothpaste Tips

  • Start brushing your baby's teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first milk 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 to prevent and control tooth decay 
  • There's no need to buy special "children's toothpaste" brands. In fact, some of them don’t have enough fluoride in them to help prevent tooth decay
  • Children from the age of seven can use family toothpaste
  • Children up to the age of six who don't have tooth decay can use a lower strength toothpaste, but make sure it contains at least 1,000ppm fluoride.
  • Make sure children don't eat or lick toothpaste from the tube
  • Below the age of three years, children should use just a smear of toothpaste
  • Children aged three to six should use a pea-sized blob of toothpaste 
  • Children’s toothpaste should contain 1000-1350 parts per million (ppm) of Fluoride. The family toothpaste should contain 1350-1450 ppm.

Tooth brushing Tips

  • Brush your child's teeth for about 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 tooth brushing will wash away the fluoride and make it less effective.
  • 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 about two minutes.


  • 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 by using an egg timer to time it for about two minutes.
  • Don't let children run around with a toothbrush in their mouth, as they may have an accident and hurt themselves.
  • Parents should take their children to the dentist regularly. Their first check-up should have taken place by their first birthday.

(NHS Choices, 2017)

What support is available?

The Health Visiting service will provide parents with a toothbrush, toothpaste and health promotion leaflets at the 8-12 month check. The leaflets contain advice regarding brushing technique and frequency, the harms of sugary drinks and snacks, attending the dentist, and the benefits of introducing a trainer cup before the child’s first birthday.

Parents who live in areas with the highest levels of tooth decay and tooth extraction will receive more than one tooth brush and tooth paste. Currently, these areas are Waveney, St. Edmundsbury and Forest Heath.

All parents visited from March 2015 to February 2017 were asked to complete a questionnaire which aimed to measure knowledge and practice relating to tooth brushing behaviour, use of dentists, consumption of sugary drinks and bottle use. This was completed at the 8-12 month and 2-2½ year visits. 

Read our Keep Suffolk Smiling leaflet* (PDF, 302KB) or download and print the Keep Suffolk Smiling tooth brushing chart (PDF, 117KB)

*Please note the advice on page 3 of the Keep Suffolk Smiling leaflet has been revised to 'Parents should take their children to the dentist regularly. Their first check-up should have taken place by their first birthday' as per the Chief Medical Officer's recommendation.

Where can I find out more information?

NHS Choices has a wide range of information and guidance relating to the care of children's teeth. 

Read our information about the Health Visiting services where you live.

The Source - Information and advice for young people in Suffolk