Smile please!

By the time they reach toddlerhood, your little one will already have a few teeth, but of course there are more to come! Here’s what you need to know about toddlers and teeth.

When should we start toothbrushing?

You should start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears! You only need a smear of fluoride containing toothpaste until your child is three, and then go for a pea-sized amount. There’s no need to buy a toothpaste specially marketed as baby toothpaste, as long as the one you’re using contains fluoride in the concentration of 1000 parts per million (PPM). You’ll find this information on the tube and packaging.

Get your little one into the habit of brushing their teeth both in the morning and before they go to bed. Toothbrushing should last two minutes.

Encourage your child to spit out the remaining toothpaste after brushing, but avoid rinsing with water afterwards. Rinsing after brushing removes the fluoride from the tooth surface so your child won’t get its protective benefits.

Making brushing fun

Sometimes brushing teeth can be a bit of a battle with a little one, so try these tips to make it more fun for everyone:

  • Sing a song while you’re brushing
  • Read some stories about teeth
  • Download a tooothbrushing app, such as Brush DJ:

Visiting the Dentist

Dentists recommend that children have their first dental visit before their first birthday. Remember, NHS dental care is free until your child is 18. You can find a local NHS dentist by visiting www.nhs.uk/dentists or phoning your local Healthwatch helpline.

Visiting the dentist regularly is important as any problems can be sorted out straightaway. Don’t leave it until your child’s in pain with toothache!

Ask your dentist about fluoride varnish. It can be painted on when your child is three years or above, and will provide an extra layer of protection against tooth decay.

Tooth decay

Tooth decay first shows up as white lines on the surface of the tooth. At this stage, a change in diet along with the use of fluoride toothpaste can prevent things from getting worse, and fluoride varnish helps with this too.

If the decay is left, it will develop into brown (and sometimes black) holes on the tooth and will become very painful for the child. Sometimes a dentist can fill the tooth, but often it will need to be taken out.

If in doubt, or if you see any changes in your child’s teeth please see a dentist immediately.

Coping with toothache

The best thing you can do is give your child sugar free medicine to help the pain and make an appointment to see a dentist as soon as possible. Don’t make an appointment to see the GP first – they’ll simply refer you to a dentist anyway.

Tooth trauma

If your child has an accident and a tooth is knocked out or damaged, it’s important to get emergency dental treatment. Don’t put a baby tooth back in the mouth. Contact your dental practice as soon as possible and explain what has happened. You should still be able to contact your dental team for emergency treatment, even if the incident has happened outside normal dental practice hours.

If you phone the practice number, you should be given information on when and where you will be treated. If you don’t have a dentist, call 111.

Useful Links


ChatHealth logo

Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.

Leicester City: text 07520 615381

Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382

You can also call and speak to a public health nurse on our professional advice line: 0300 3000 007

Healthy Together Logo