Looking after the health of your mouth and teeth is important – whatever your age.

Why is looking after your teeth important?

Tooth decay causes difficulties eating, smiling and sleeping, and sometimes results in teeth being removed under general anaesthetic

A child in England has a rotten tooth removed in hospital every 10 minutes. That’s almost 40,000 a year and tooth decay is the most common reason for hospital admissions in 5 to 9-year-olds.

Bad toothache can mean missing school or work and stop you enjoying social events with family and friends.

Advice for keeping the whole family's teeth healthy

  • Cut down on foods and drinks high in sugar. To help you achieve this download the NHS Food Scanner app, which reveals the sugar, salt, saturated fat and calories in everyday foods and drinks or look at the labelling on the pack and aim for mostly ‘greens’ and ‘ambers.’
  • Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste – one of these times should be before bed.
  • Brushing should be for 2 minutes each time.
  • Spit out after brushing but don’t rinse so that the toothpaste can keep working.
  • Visit a dentist and go as often as they advise – usually once or twice a year unless you have a problem with your teeth. Visit the Wessex Dental Helpline website for help finding a local dentist.

Advice for keeping children's teeth healthy

  • Breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for babies so breastfeed if you can.
  • Sugar should not be added to weaning foods or drinks.
  • Brushing should start as soon as the first tooth appears.
  • Children should be helped to brush their teeth or supervised up to the age of 7.
  • The easiest way to brush a baby’s teeth is to sit them on your knee, with their head resting against your chest. With an older child, stand behind them and tilt their head backwards.
  • Not all children like having their teeth brushed, so you may have to keep trying. Make it into a game, or brush your own teeth at the same time and then help your child finish their own.
  • Take children to the dentist as soon as their first tooth appears and go as often as their dentist recommends. It’s free for children up to 18 to see an NHS dentist and it’s also free for pregnant women up until their child is one.
  • Use a smear of toothpaste (up to 3 years) or a pea sized amount (3-6 year olds).
  • Children up to 3 should use a toothpaste with at least 1,000ppm fluoride. Children over 3 should use a toothpaste with more than 1,350 ppm fluoride. After 7 years old an adult toothpaste can be used.
  • Sugar-free medicines should be used where possible (until 7 years of age).
  • Use a child’s toothbrush – they have soft bristles and a small head.

Watch this short animated video about the town of Toothville with your children so that they learn why it’s important to keep their teeth clean and how to do it.